NEW FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- The Stop & Shop in New Fairfield has just undergone a renovation to include more healthy items — and town resident Dawn Hirsch couldn’t be happier.
“Since July 1, I have been vegan and I haven’t felt better in years,” Hirsch said. She said she has lost 25 pounds and her health issues have gone away as a result of her new diet.
Some of the items Hirsch is happy to see in the aisles include Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread, Tofutti Dairy Free Cream Cheese, Daiya Soy-Free Vegan Cheese and Arrowhead Gluten-Free Organic Coconut Flour.
The store is having a grand reopening — even though it never closed — to show off its new items until 3 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Free product samples will be given out throughout the store, one of which is a Boar's Head deli meat sampler. Customers can also get free hot dogs, condiments, T-shirts, pens, erasers and reusable grocery bags.
A collection of $10 Stop & Shop Gift Cards are also being given out while supplies last.
“We are having these giveaways and samples to draw customers in and show off our new products,” said Joe Casso, assistant store manager.
Casso said the store decided to renovate because “we wanted to get in line with the rest of the Stop & Shops as far as where things are located.
"Before the renovation, we had the same layout as Shaw's," which was in location previously, he said.
The renovation, which took about seven weeks, includes a greatly expanded natural products line as well as a brand new gluten-free section.
“We’ve added a whole corner dedicated exclusively to gluten-free items," he said.
Items include snacks, breakfast cereal, pasta, breadcrumbs and breads.
The gluten-free and natural food expansion is in response to customers’ requests.
“We now have over 1,000 items that are all natural and free from chemicals,” said Ruth Maloney, events specialist.
“Generally, the trend we are seeing is that our customers want to eat more natural and organic foods -- foods that are free from pesticides,” Maloney said.
“We went from having a small healthy food section to one-and-one-half regular size aisles, in addition to the gluten-free corner,” she said.
There is also an expanded Nature’s Promise line that includes pretzel sticks, tortilla chips and white cheddar puffs.
“Nature’s Promise vegetable chips and sticks are two of our best-selling snack items. We can’t keep the shelf full fast enough. They are great healthy snacks,” Maloney said.
In addition, the store now also carries a full line of healthy cleaning supplies. “These are better for the environment, kids and animals when you clean the house,” she said.
Hirsch says she is getting her whole family on board with her new vegan diet.
“They have all switched to the Earth Believe Butter. They say it’s really good and it tastes just like regular butter. They call it ‘vegan butter,’” she said.
Hirsch said she uses many of the vegan foods that she buys at Stop & Shop in recipes such as her spinach artichoke dip.
“I love to cook and my husband is a chef. We like to say that we take regular recipes and ‘veganize’ them,” she said.