Customers line up for new Sprouts

COSTA MESA — As she walked out of the new Sprouts Farmers Market on Wednesday with two ripe cantaloupes, Andrea Bowen said she "couldn't be more tickled."

The melons, which she had tucked into a green recyclable bag, cost her 19 cents a pound.

"Usually, cantaloupe is 49 cents a pound — but 19 cents? That's unheard of," said Bowen, a Costa Mesa resident.

Other grand-opening deals included large ripe tomatoes for 88 cents a pound, four ears of white corn for $1, and buy one, get one free Humboldt organic butter.

Sprouts opened to a line of eager customers at 7 a.m. Wednesday for its first day of business at the 17th Street Promenade, said store director Barry Dean.

The 17,000-square-foot natural and organic foods market, with about 70 employees, aims to combine great service and value, he said.

Sprouts stepped into the same location as Mother's Market, a Newport-Mesa health food pioneer. Sprouts features a large selection of produce, much of it organic or locally grown.

"I love it," Bowen said. "It's got everything you'd want, and a huge organic selection. I'm not usually a big organic person, but when there's so much, it's really an opportunity to get into it."

The market's location is close to several competitors, including Mother's Market and Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, both on Newport Boulevard, and Trader Joe's on West 17th Street.

"Stores like this are sending a message," Costa Mesa resident and nutritional therapist John Robbins said of the new Sprouts, adding that not all so-called organic markets equally care about the quality of their products or customers' health.

"Look at all the people going in there," Robbins added, standing in the Sprouts parking lot just before noon with several loaded grocery bags in hand. "It's because they're tired of all the other garbage."

While Sprouts isn't perfect — not everything offered in the store is organic — it's "a step in the right direction," Robbins said.

Sprouts will eventually have about 20 locations in Orange County as the Henry's Farmers Market locations change over to the Sprouts banner.

This includes the Henry's in the Costa Mesa Square shopping center, which is anchored by Target.

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