At 5:30pm on opening day, the parking lot at Market of Choice on Colorado Avenue was overflowing. I parked a block away and made my way inside the 42,000-square-foot shopping Mecca, along with everyone else in Bend, it seemed.
Market of Choice boasts more than 10 different departments, ranging from fresh produce, seafood and meat to beer, wine and cheeses to floral, bakery and whole health sections. The meats are local, organic, and natural, and the seafood is caught in the Northwest. They also carry conventional grocery items, keeping prices reasonable.
Besides the typical grocery store fare, Market of Choice offers a take-away section serving up juices, barista drinks, beers, wines, cheeses and a variety of hot bar items including house-made pizza, burgers and burritos. In other words, no one ever needs to shop hungry again.
Alyssa Ross is a fan of the hot food bar. "I like it because it's a good place to pick up dinner after work," she said, admitting that she expects to treat Market of Choice as more of a restaurant than a grocery store.
Other shoppers—such as myself—are enamored with Market of Choice's bulk section. It feels like an old-timey candy shop, or perhaps a feed store. Along with the typical flours, grains, granolas, dried fruits, and snacks, this section features an impressive array of spices, cooking oils and nut butters. According to bulk section clerk Rebecca Perper, "People are in love with this department. Our most common reaction is how wide of a variety of unique spices we have on hand."
Alison Nobis came straight from yoga class to cruise the aisles. "I really like the idea of having another option where I can get natural produce and specialized goods," she said. "I heard that this was opening day, and when I walked in the door the produce section was right there. I like that a lot."
Aside from admiring the fresh produce, Nobis made a point to praise the Eugene-based, family-owned company. "I didn't know much about Market of Choice, but then I did a bit of research and found out some of what they do."
The first store opened in Cottage Grove in 1979, and soon grew to 10 locations in Oregon, with Eugene being its base. The Oregon mentality of keeping things local rings true to the Wright family, who not only own all the MOCs, but run them as well. Sixty-five percent of the vendors come from Oregon, with roughly 3,000 farmers, ranchers and food producers among the mix. Aside from buying locally wherever possible, MOC donates thousands of pounds of food that are close to expiration or goods that would have otherwise been thrown away, such as bakery items that didn't sell. They also give generously to a handful of Oregon-based arts organizations, food banks, and children's charities. By opening a store in Bend, MOC created roughly 130 local jobs, most of which are full-time and come with above-average wages.
During my visit to the wine and beer section, I overheard a wine specialist, Meredith Austin, decline a tip from a shopper. When I asked why, she replied. "My pay is not reliant on tips. Market of Choice takes care of me so that I can fully take care of you."
Market of Choice
115 NW Sisemore St., Bend
Open daily, 7am-11pm