Uncovering The Great Pumpkin

By WC Dish Writer Mamma Mia

Over the next few weeks I’ll take a closer look at West Chester’s very own food Mecca, the “grocery store.” I will try to uncover who offers the best prices, coupons, membership rewards, freshest meats, seafood, produce and organic options. Also part of my mission will be finding the cleanest bathrooms, kid-friendliest spots, online shopping deals, home delivery and much, much more.

I also want to know where you shop and one reason why you think it’s the best place to spend your “bread and butter”– you may even win a gift certificate there.

First Stop: Best Natural Foods

The Great Pumpkin has been in West Chester for 35 years. In the eight years that I have lived here, I had never ventured into this tiny natural foods grocery on Market Street, nestled between Capriotti’s, Mabel’s and Dunkin Donuts.

As I walked through the door, the aroma of incense and meditation music hit me—odd for a grocery store but relaxing all the same—and it actually put me at ease as I strolled the aisles of this quaint little market. My main objective was to see what they do best and what they offer that the big chains don’t.

What They do Best:

  • Specialize in vitamins and homeopathic remedies. Manager, Anita Peberdy is even a registered nurse and extremely knowledgeable on this subject matter. I discovered a unique supplement called suntheanine, which is a derivative of glutamic acid (also found in tea plants). Take the Suntheanine at the first sign of stress and within 30 minutes your mind and body should feel more relaxed without drowsiness. So, go ahead and throw out your Prozac!

  • Offer a large selection of wheat- and gluten-free products

  • Provide an array of organic beans, herbs and spices to choose from


What I liked:

  • A larger variety of familiar organic brands than some of the larger chain markets. My faves are Pacific soups and Health Valley Organic snacks.

  • A section in the back of the market that cases a selection of ready-to-eat foods like vegetarian pad Thai ($4.79), vegetarian egg rolls with shitake mushrooms ($1.49), tofu edamame salad, tabouli and cous cous salad ($2.99). Fresh sandwiches like avocado & hummus on wheat ($3.99) are the perfect option for a quick lunch or dinner rather than the drive-thru.

  • A healthful and natural alternative to just about everything from frozen waffles to body products in a store that is a quarter of the size of a chain grocer. It makes shopping quick and convenient.

All of this healthfulness doesn’t come cheap, so I had to ask Anita, “Why do organic products cost so much more?” Am I the only one out there thinking that there is less “stuff” in them, so why isn’t that reflected in the price?

For all of us organic newbies, here is the answer:

  • To be certified organic, food must meet stricter regulations that govern all the steps in the processing the food. Organic food production is usually more labor and management intensive and happens on a smaller scale and on smaller farms, which lack the benefit of economy of scale.

  • Organic farms yield only a portion of the crops that a non-organic farm does with the aid of pesticides.

  • Good news! Organic products are on the brink of being mass-produced which will bring their cost down.

As a shopper who feeds a family of six and wants to offer her family all-natural foods but is chained to a budget, I asked Anita what I could do. Her suggestion was to look at what we consume the most and switch those foods to organic ones; great advice and financially doable.

This little market is a WC gem and I recommend you stop in to treat your body to a healthful experience.

What you Should Know:

  • They do not sell produce.

  • Ready-to-eat organic foods are delivered on Thursdays, so Tuesday and Wednesday could be a little iffy.

  • I would leave the kids at home—not really their scene.

  • Eating organic is NOT inexpensive.

Final Thought:

I find myself always trying to save money by buying cheaper products at the grocery store. After leaving the Great Pumpkin, I thought about the nonessentials that I spend money on: furniture, clothes, cars, coloring my hair, coffee, toys…and I realized that the one thing that I should be spending money on is fueling my family with good nutrition that will keep them healthy and strong, and that’s the one thing I chose to skimp on; shame on me. Maybe I won’t get so many highlights next time I’m at the salon.