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Jandi's Natural Market and Organic Cafe

3000 Long Beach Rd. Oceanside, NY 516-536-5535

Howard Chasser, owner of Jandi's Natural Market in

(Credit: Erica Marcus)

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Before I visited Jandi's, I wondered how this 33-year-old natural foods store could continue to distinguish itself in the age of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. I was also under the impression that "Jandi" was an obscure Indian avatar of healthful eating.

Wrong on both counts. The name of the store derives from its late founders, Judith and Irving Chasser, and after talking to their son Howard for five minutes, I realized that Jandi's is an entirely different type of enterprise from its upstart competition.

"Whole Foods - it's a product store," explained Chasser, the store's owner. "What we are is a resource."

Most of Jandi's employees are passionate about healthful eating and are eager to engage customers in conversation. "Our mission," Chasser said, "is to improve our customers' quality of life."

Jandi's stocks a huge range of products for virtually every dietary health issue: gluten and lactose intolerance, nut and soy allergies, veganism, raw foodism. Unlike most others, the produce department sells nothing that is not Certified Organic. "We were selling organic produce back when there were only four or five items available," said Chasser. The organic produce is also the basis for Jandi's bustling prepared-food counter.

Some of Jandi's new customers start out in the baby-food aisle. Unconcerned about their own diets, they, nonetheless, want to ensure that their newborns avoid pesticides, fertilizers, hormones and genetically modified foods. "But once you start shopping here, you almost can't not start asking questions," Chasser observed. "And the more questions you ask, the more you learn about how you should be eating."

--Erica Marcus

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Jandi's Natural Market and Organic Cafe in Oceanside 3000 Long Beach Rd., Oceanside

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