Wednesday, December 26, 2012
When Jeff Crawford’s mother was diagnosed with diabetes early last year, she decided to forego treating the disease with insulin, instead choosing to change her diet to limit her intake of sugar and carbohydrates.
But she quickly discovered that finding suitable food in the grocery store was something of a challenge.
“You have to pick up every product and read the label, and there weren’t that many [acceptable] products” said Crawford, who spent two and a half hours in the store with his mother on their first shopping trip after her diagnosis. “It was really frustrating. We looked at each other and said, ‘No, there’s got to be a better way.’”
This sense of frustration gave birth to the idea for Mimi’s Low Carb Market (named after Crawford’s children’s nickname for his mother), a store that carries only low-carb, low-sugar and gluten-free products.
“There’s no other store like this in this area, and there’s only seven stores like this in the country specializing in low-carb and gluten-free only,” said Crawford, who previously owned other small businesses.
Opened in Hixson in mid-November, Mimi’s stocks hundreds of frozen and dry goods that are low in carbs and gluten-free, as well as dairy products. Crawford defines products with less than 25 grams of carbs as low-carb and those with less than 5 grams sugar as low-sugar.
“You will find the products in other stores, but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” he said. “Everyone who comes in can’t believe you can find all these things in one area.”
Mimi’s has a deli opening in January that will offer pre-made and made-to-order sandwiches on low-carb bread as well as sliced-to-order meats and cheeses. The store also has a selection of fresh produce coming this spring.
“Finding good organic produce is difficult now,” said Crawford, who has the store’s fresh baked low-carb and paleo breads shipped daily from Julian’s Bakery in California. “[The paleo bread] is only one carb per slice and gluten-free; it’s soft, moist and doesn’t crumble.”
He said Mimi’s is a community-driven market in that its inventory is based on customer feedback.
“People come in and have items they’ve been using that are really good and suggest them, then we order them and stock them,” he said, giving Ezekiel 4:9 bread as one example.
“If they’re coming in for a specialty item, they’re probably going to pick something else up,” added Crawford’s wife Liz.
Crawford said more than 20 gluten-free items have been added on customer request since the store’s recent opening.
“We’re letting the customers direct the business for us because we want to make sure we carry what they want,” he said. “A lot of the products are from independent companies throughout the U.S.”
Crawford said he spent about three months researching companies to determine which products the store would carry.
“A lot [of the product lines] you won’t find in this area,” he said, adding that another way the store stands out is its pricing, which thanks to his low overhead costs is always below the suggested retail amount. “We want you to buy the product, not the store.”
His wife said Mimi’s customer service also makes the store stand out.
“When someone is newly diagnosed [with diabetes or other diseases requiring a restrictive diet], they don’t have the trained, personal staff to help you figure out carb counts,” she said.
Jeff Crawford said he is already considering expanding the store into the vacant half of the building.
“After a month of being open, that’s a good sign,” he said. “We have gotten a good reception from the community.”