Archive for Thursday, September 12, 2013


Mrs. Mass.: Home-grown groceries

September 12, 2013


While I wouldn’t call myself a health food nerd, I am definitely interested in maintaining a balanced diet.

This can be difficult when roaming through your standard grocery (how am I supposed to say no to the newest variety of Twix?). Fortunately, Lawrence has an easy solution for these kinds of problems, and this solution is called The Merc.

Find The Merc at 901 Iowa St.,, 785-843-8544

Find The Merc at 901 Iowa St.,, 785-843-8544

Founded in 1974, The Merc was born from a group of locals devoted to community access to whole foods. As a cooperative market and deli, this specialty grocery focuses on local and organic products (Twix doesn’t even exist here! Phew.). Having heard of the choice products that can be found at The Merc, I was tickled to receive a $25 gift card as a random result of my participation in the The Merc 5K (which The Merc sponsors during the month of July). What a nice way to experience my first visit to this health food mecca, don’t you agree?

I stopped by this specialty market on a weekday to pickup a few unnecessary items. Since I didn’t have a plan in mind (no grocery list!) I was eager to see what I would end up with at the end of this visit.

If you’ve been to The Merc, you know that it’s beautifully organized with peculiar health products at almost every turn. This made shopping both fun and distracting! The varieties of soups, sauces, cheeses, etc. was fascinating, and almost all of the types were distinct in some way or another. Needless to say, I was impressed.

Overall, two areas in the store really caught my interest: the bulk department and the wellness department. If you need a particular spice, herb, supplement or vitamin, The Merc is ready for you! The selections here are obviously more diverse than those in other grocery stores in town.

In the end, I probably circled the store’s aisles about three times, if for no other reason than to admire the options and learn about healthy alternatives to everyday basics. While I can’t give up my Twix addiction yet, I plan to return for special occasions and particular items.

So what was made of my $25 gift card? Well, a bag of organically grown seedless green grapes, a package of salami, three specialty cheeses and a bunch of KIND bars fit the bill. My total expense was $31.25 (but only $6.25 after my gift card was applied). A successful visit indeed!

The Merc is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

— Jessica Pauly, aka Mrs. Mass., gives her thoughts on shopping, urban living and what’s new in Lawrence in CheckOut weekly and on her blog,


Adrienne Sanders 4 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, cheese and salami, super healthy! Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the Merc, but higher quality cheese and chocolate bars are just as bad for you as the stuff you get at Dillon's. I hardly ever make it out of there without a piece of the carrot cake that's sold by the slice in the cold case. Best carrot cake EVER.

bring_JOHN_BROWN_back 4 years, 9 months ago only if the price points of the products were conducive to those below the poverty line.

msezdsit 4 years, 9 months ago

The merc is really the lesser of two evils in the grocery store lineup. They have a bulk area which is great. From there on, you get the status quo on "over packaged" products. Where "marketing" takes precedence over "necessary" packaging, there is very little that separates the Merc from the big box corporate grocers. When it comes to sodium, most products in the merc are loaded but slightly less than others. When it comes to food coloring only the individual food producers limit food coloring in their products. The Merc is very food coloring tolerant.When it comes to the bottom line and treatment of employees, the Merc can make very few claims over the corporate box grocers. If you read labels and shop for the "healthier" items the Merc stocks you can find food that is better for you. If you just think I got it at the Merc so its probably OK, then you might not be much better off than just saving some money and shopping at Dillons, Hy-vee, and the rest of the usual suspects. Nice of the Ljw to give them some free advertisement though.

Susan Harper 4 years, 9 months ago

Actually, when I comparison shop, many items are cheaper at The Merc than at its competitors. The product standards are actually very high; for example, you can be assured of seafood that is sustainably harvested, of meats that contain no nitrates or hormones and of the very best cage free eggs in town! No mention was made of the amount of support The Merc gives to the local community. There are many and varied locally grown or produced products available at The Merc so there is economic support to local growers. The Merc also supports the wellness of the community in numerous ways through the Education and Outreach efforts. The Merc was recently recognized as a Master LEAP Partner (Lawrence Education Achievement Partners) by the Lawrence Schools Foundation. It donates thousands of dollars of product (like organic apples or energy bars) to schools, non-profits and social service agencies every year.

blindrabbit 4 years, 9 months ago

Author of this thread a little too ingratiating of the Merc. Store looks nice, health foods and bulk foods are great! Otherwise, produce very overpriced, likewise meat and regular groceries. Most customers would be better off going to Checkers, Natural Foods or mainline grocery stores of r economy and quality. Employees far from friendly and courteous, need a course in public relations. The store relies on the "Organic Myth" for overpricing many produce items that are not affected by the "organic" misconception.

Too bad Wild Oats did not survive, and the threat of a Trader Joe's like establishment would send shivers down the spine of the Merc. All this and I have been a Merc member since 1984.

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