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Organic store opens its doors

By Staff | Dec 3, 2010

(Chronicle photo by Kelly Cambrel) Justin Oldenburg and Kristen Riek own and operate Raw Earth Organics in downtown Shepherdstown. The store is now open for business on German Street.

Two local residents hope to supply local organic foods to Shepherdstown, with Raw Earth Organics, which officially opened its doors last weekend.

Kristen Riek, 26, and Justin Oldenburg, 32, co-own and operate what they describe as a natural health food store with vitamins and supplements.

Riek attended the Institute of Integrated Nutrition at Columbia University and got a degree in nutrition and is a certified holistic health counselor. A former Shepherd student raised in Shepherdstown since age 11, she recalls discussion among the community about the need for a organic food market of some sort in town for many years now.

Riek decided to take on the venture herself when she struggled to find desirable organic options close by.

“I got sick and tired of driving really far to get what I wanted,” she said.

According to Riek, the start-up process took three to four months. She said that Raw Earth Organics is in the space that was formerly Rico’s Jewelry Store until it became a residential space about five years ago.

Ellen Hoffman and Ricardo Accurso decided to rent out the renovated former living room area to Riek and her fiance after Oldenburg, a carpenter/handyman, helped with its remodel.

According to Riek, Shepherdtown’s residents and even SU students have increasingly become demanding of health food, and she hopes Raw Earth Organics will help contribute to the local economy it relies on.

“I want this to be a haven for my locals to come and get what they want and a place where locals support locals,” she said.

Currently the shop carries multiple items produced locally including eggs, honey and meat, which come directly from the Tudar Hill Farm in Kearneysville and the local farmers market.

It also carries local musician Chelsea McBee’s line of scrubs, “Lavender Hill Homestead;” Gregorio Lacerda’s chips and soups, “Sweet Brazil,” which are served hot on the weekend with fresh bread as a complimentary treat for customers; and earth- friendly hats and scarves by local resident Emily Vaughn, called “Emirisensei,” are also on sale.

Looking forward, Riek hopes to expand the purpose of Raw Earth Organics even further and said she might utilize space to do health counseling and practice nontraditional medicine down the road, like acupuncture.

Oldenburg, who has a small company called Oldenburg Contracting, explained that he never really imagined being a part of a project like Raw Earth Organics, though he’s constructed much of the furniture used inside the store.

“We both made it possible, but it was her idea. I never saw myself as a grocery store owner, but I’m not complaining,” he said. “I’m here to help make Kristen’s dream happen.”

“He turned it into something beautiful with me,” Riek said.