It’s true — not all grocery stores are created equal. Much like restaurants, they each have their own flavors and followings, styles and stock. The southside is exploding with specialty natural food stores to keep in step with the consumer shift toward fresher, more local foods. Here, we’ve zeroed in on a handful of them to help you navigate the niche with ease.

By Caroline Mosey and Julie Cope Saetre // Photography by Josh Marshall

This independent Franklin health food store, which opened in 1993, has been under the ownership of Donna Booth since she purchased it in 2001. “I’m a certified nutritionist and have worked in the nutrition field for 24 years,” she says. “Our store is approximately 1,200 square feet, and we carry an assortment of gluten-free, organic and fermented whole foods, along with body care products and vitamins, herbs and supplements.” Booth, along with her manager, Mendy Williams (who doubles as a yoga instructor), loves the opportunity to chat with customers and help them make educated choices about products. 2797 N. Morton St., Suite C, Franklin, (317) 736-8300

Country Nutrition
Country Nutrition in Greenwood is well-versed and well-stocked when it comes to special diet needs. “We specialize in it, in fact,” says manager Audra Nicholls. “We have lots of products geared toward gluten-free, dairy-free and all different types of diets.” The small staff offers a wealth of knowledge when it comes to nutrition, so don’t shy away from asking health-related questions. Country Nutrition doesn’t carry fresh produce, but it does stock plenty of refrigerated, frozen and packaged foods, as well as health care products and supplements. 1480 Olive Branch Park Lane, Greenwood, (317) 889-1305,

Earth Fare
This health food store has locations throughout the country, landing solidly in Greenwood over the summer. Earth Fare prides itself on the variety of products that don’t line its shelves, namely anything containing high fructose corn syrup, synthetic growth hormones, trans fats, artificial colors or sweeteners and bleached or bromated flours. Claiming one of the “strictest food philosophies in the industry,” the store has an ever-evolving list of banned ingredients not allowed in stores, stocking only the healthiest fare possible for community shoppers.

The store also stresses the origin of its products. Labels point consumers to foods that have been shipped from locations 100 miles or closer and to those that have been produced at small, family-owned or artisan farms. 2110 E. County Line Road, Indianapolis, (828) 281-4800,

Fresh Thyme
Greenwood became the site of the first Fresh Thyme Farmers Market location in Indiana. The health food retailer, which has stores throughout the Midwest, doesn’t follow the layout of more traditional grocery stores; rather, the shopping space (no numbered aisles here) reflects how diets should be structured. Produce, much of which is grown locally, stands in the center of the store. Surrounding fresh produce loads of bulk foods like organic grains, hormone-free meats and dairy, organic coffee, cleaning supplies, vitamins and supplements.

Fresh Thyme stocks its shelves with fresh seafood shipped daily, organic foods, breads and other treats from local bakeries and the on-site Fresh Thyme kitchen and dairy- and gluten-free offerings. Shoppers also find a selection of organic and sulfite-free wines and craft beers.

Each Fresh Thyme location invests in the local community with in-kind donations and fundraising events, joining the fabric of the community as it seeks to change the way people eat and shop for healthy foods. 8750 U.S. 31, Indianapolis, (317) 215-5185, 

Nature’s Pharm
One of three locations, the Greenwood Nature’s Pharm promises customers one of the largest selections of health and gluten-free foods, organic produce and supplements on the southside. The store boasts a variety of fresh and frozen items, beans and grains, baby foods, herbs, spices and even wines. “We belong to the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association, which keeps our prices competitive,” says owner Matt Smith. “We really emphasize customer service here, as we have lots of regulars and a rewards program.” Despite the large selection of health food products, Smith swears by a few of his favorites — one being a relatively new addition to the store. “It’s called Fire Cider,” he shares. “It’s a health tonic made with apple cider vinegar, and you take it from a pre-marked shot glass. It’s intense!” 8215 S. U.S. 31, Greenwood, (317) 888-0557,