It’s like G.B. Russo’s without the pricing. It’s a treasure hunt. The food pantries are cheaper (free) but no one else offers prices this low. Andy’s Discount Grocery has been at 572 S. State Street in Sparta for about a year and a half. Owner Roger Anderson opened the 4,000-square-foot store when his career in the construction industry faltered with the economy. He knew a guy who ran a similar discount store and was very successful. Roger and wife Darlene decided to go into the grocery business.
Foodies will love the large selection of spices, purchased in bulk and repackaged offered at low prices, often 75 percent cheaper than at a regular grocery store. Staples such as ground cumin, dried cilantro, cinnamon sticks are offered at bargain prices, along with more exotic spices home chefs can now have on hand affordably. The store is also becoming known for its organic products-more and more popular as people want items without the pesticides and other chemicals large food producers have long used. Lover’s of authentic Amish cheese will also appreciate a local supplier for the product. Andy’s brings in a strong selection of Amish cheeses so local shoppers won’t have to drive to the source for Amish-made havarti, Swiss, jumping jack, pepper jack or other popular favorite cheeses.
“What I like is when people come in and buy these gourmet products that they can get here for two dollars that would cost more than five in another store,” Anderson said. He used for example pine nuts, selling for about $5 In Meijer, just $1.99 at Andy’s. He has yogurt for just 39 cents, hams for 99 cents a pound, half gallons of ice cream for $1.99. The store also has aisle of other goods-medicine, cleaning products, pet products, shampoo and mops-also priced to go out the door painlessly.
Anderson said his goods come from some of the same suppliers the big stores use, and a Frito Lay truck pulled in during the interview, proving his point. When suppliers have too much stock, Anderson buys at a discount. When items have damaged labels or dents, he picks up those too. Some stuff is close or post-dated. According to Anderson, plenty of foods are good after the date code. Some say “use by or freeze by” and those go in the freezers.
“People don’t understand a store like this,” he said. “We have lots of neat things, all perfectly good. If customers are not satisfied with the quality, we will refund your money or replace the product.” Anderson said selling items that big stores won’t stock, such as those with damaged labels, is common in Europe. He also said here in Michigan, especially up north, stores like his are more common. “It’s when you are in or close to cities people aren’t used to the idea,” Anderson stated.
Andy’s had, on Friday, May 1, five pound bags of Kentucky Fried Chicken boneless nuggets for just 99 cents a pound. It’s the real product they sell for a lot more at the restaurant, but the nuggets he has were either larger or smaller than the ones KFC gives you. As far as close or even post-dated products, Anderson believes Americans put too much worry into the little dates on the bottoms of packaging.
“What was the expiration date on the cheeses your great-grandfather hung in the bottom of the well to keep cool all summer?” he asked. “What was the expiration date on her home-canned goods your grandmother served you five years after she canned them? You don’t see Europeans who have been eating post-dated foods for years dropping dead of them.”
Anderson shared a comment he’s heard his brother-in-law make for years. “There are Americans who would die of starvation even with a cupboard full of food if the expiration date had passed.”
It’s food for thought. Remember the uproar a year or so ago when bottlers were putting expiration dates on water? Anderson said there are many reasons food producers put expiration dates on packages, and it doesn’t often mean the food is no good anymore once that date looms near (or past).
Mammoths aren’t for sale at Andy’s, but you can get those 99 cents a pound hams all the time, not just at Easter or Christmas. Free-range, cage free chicken’s eggs (Anderson’s son keeps hens) are available in white, brown or green. Hot dogs are 69 cents a package. Other items are staples in stock regularly while many products are hit or miss. You can’t predict when a batch of canned goods will turn up dented or Newman’s Own dressings will have damage to the labels. “It’s like a treasure hunt,” Anderson said. “You just have to make a point to drift through the store and see what we have. If you don’t see what you are looking for, you’re sure to find something else.”
Andy’s is located across the street from Family Fare in downtown Sparta. The store is open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The phone number is (616) 887-1999.