Barons the Marketplace runs beautiful stores stuffed with organic and other healthy food. It’s a San Diego-based chain with four stores, two in San Diego, one in Temecula and one in Wildomar, between Lake Elsinore and Murrieta, Calif.
The stores are beautifully designed, large enough to provide almost everything on your grocery list but small enough to feel more like an intimate community market than a mass-market full -size supermarket chain. (Barons’ website explains that it carries 9,546 items in its stores, versus the 50,000 stocked by a typical supermarket.)
Barons Marketplace carries “natural and specialty food,” as it describes the fare. The family-run company was born when the Shemirani family wanted to create a market focusing on healthy, environmentally friendly food without the high sticker prices of many organic and other specialty-food markets. The company boasts that its prices are some 25 percent less than you’d pay for similar items in a typical supermarket.
For families unaccustomed to eating organic or other specialty fare, the prices at Barons will still seem appallingly high compared to what they usually spend on groceries. This market’s clearly not for anyone who struggles to put food on the table. And if you try to make a 180-degree change in your family’s diet overnight, going from a reliance on mass-market groceries to a completely organic, all-natural menu, you’ll have to seriously adjust your budget, no matter what organic market you shop.
A more financially palatable strategy: Gradually add organic (or all-natural, or vegetarian, or locally grown, etc.) items to your diet, first choosing ones priced similarly to their conventionally produced counterparts sold by the big supermarket chains. Barons is a great place to browse when you’re trying to slowly nudge your diet in a healthier direction. Try cherry-picking delicious items here that are sold at similar or better prices than you’d find elsewhere. For example, you can often find flank steak at Barons for $5.99 to $6.99/lb., equal to the best prices anywhere else, and the quality is reliably high.
An even better example: the entire produce section! Fresh fruits and veggies here will often cost less than they do in conventional supermarkets, never mind organic or health-food stores (for example, three grapefruit for $1). Barons credits the low fruits-n-veggies prices to its practice of buying produce from local farms; buying close to home reduces shipping costs, which in turn reduces the retail cost of the food. The quality is reliably good, and the people stocking the produce are friendly and very knowledgeable about the food. (It took a Barons produce guy to teach me to recognize kale.)
If you can tear yourself away from the produce section long enough to stroll to the opposite end of the store you’ll also find good deals on wine. The marketplace promises 100 wines costing $5 or less and 300 costing under $10. Prices like that make buying wine from Barons as much fun as getting it from Trader Joe’s (which, like Barons, is a favorite source for organic and other quality fare plus interesting, high-quality wines, often at low prices).
Barons also carries eco-friendly cleaning supplies and health and beauty items, plus “all-natural, human-grade pet food.” It has deli and bulk departments – the latter carrries everything from rice to raw nuts to veggie chips – fresh bread and salad, soup and olive bars for easy takeout of quick meals or party food. And if you’re lucky the store is handing out yummy samples of some of the eats when you visit.
Barons Marketplace has two San Diego stores, one at 4001 W. Point Loma Blvd., San Diego, Calif. 92110 (phone number: 619-223-4397) and the other at 11828 Rancho Bernardo Rd., 92128 (858-485-8686). In 2006 it opened a store in Temecula, Calif., at 31939 Rancho California Rd., 92592 (951-693-1111), and about a year ago opened in Wildomar, Calif., at 32310 Clinton Keith Rd., 92595 (951-609-9200).
Note: I have never received any pay, disounts or free merchandise from Barons in exchange for this article or any other article or blog post. I do, however, happily eat as many food samples as they can dish out in the store.