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Father, Son Open Buy 'N Bulk Food Store

New store opens next to Stater Bros. at the El Toro and Trabuco intersection. Like at a candy shop, customers pay by weight.

Buying in bulk or only as much as you need can benefit your wallet, your figure and the environment, say the owners of a new Lake Forest store that sells self-serve food.

From seasonings to candy, Buy 'N Bulk is meant for the shopper tired of buying a two-ounce jar of turmeric when only a pinch is needed for the evening's curry.

Steve and Adam Wilks, a father-and-son team, opened the doors of the store at 22343 El Toro Rd., in the Stater Bros. shopping center at the El Toro Road and Trabuco Road intersection, on Sept. 30.

"It's an economical way of doing grocery shopping," said Adam Wilks, 27, one of the trio of store owners. "You're not paying for the packaging."

Customers put as much or as little of each food as they need in plastic bags. Price is determined by weight.

The store offers a wide variety of food, including spices and seasonings; cereal, oats and granola; beans and peas; rice and pasta; mixes and flour; dried fruits; nuts and seeds; candy and chocolate—or, as the Buy 'N Bulk logo says, everything from "spice to nuts."

A number of the products are organic, gluten-free or sugar-free for people with specific dietary needs.

In total, Buy 'N Bulk has more than 1,000 bins filled with different food items, Adam Wilks said. Many of the bins are labeled with recipe or usage suggestions. The store also has a small assortment of packaged foods.

"There's a little bit of everything for everyone," he added.

Originally from Canada, with the accents to prove it, the Wilkses said their Lake Forest store has been warmly received.

Area residents who thought the store would be similar to a Costco, with four-year stocks of ramen noodles, have told its owners they were pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere of Buy 'N Bulk, Steve Wilks said.

Notwithstanding the extensive candy aisle, the store has the natural-food aura of a Sprouts grocery store.

But while many of the offerings are aimed at the health-conscious consumer, sweet-toothed eaters aren't ignored.

Yogen Früz station, owned by the Wilks' third business partner, Aaron Serruya, is situated near the check-out area of the store. 

Among its bins, Buy 'N Bulk offers baking chocolate, sprinkles and sugar to decorate baked goods, and assorted candies.

Orange "cheddar cheez" powder meant to recall a childhood staple, Kraft macaroni and cheese, has been a surprise hit with shoppers, Adam Wilks said.

Construction began in May, but the idea arose years prior, the Wilkses said. About two years ago, the pair revived the notion and began working to making it a reality.

The El Toro Road building was entirely revamped, both for aesthetic purposed and to accomodate food preparation, the Wilkses said.

For hiring, Buy 'N Bulk looked local and lucked out with a number of "magnificent" students from El Toro High School, Steve Wilks said.

Bulk stores seem to be more prevalent in Canada and Europe, said Steve Wilks. The family team sees its Lake Forest store as the first step in filling that niche. 

They plan to open additional stores in Orange County in the near term, then in other parts of California, then eventually to spread nationwide and even to the international market.

For the time being, however, the Wilks are working to establish their store's presence in Lake Forest. 

"It's very exciting for both of us, after all these ideas and plans, to see it finally come to fruition," Steve Wilks said.

The store is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Kevin Hebenstreit October 17, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Congratulations Steve and Adam. I hope to meet you both at the Lake Forest Chamber Of Commerce.
David L October 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Congrats guys! Great looking store and a much needed store in the area! See you soon!
MFriedrich October 17, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Congratulations. I imagine local dentists are doing cartwheels right now! Just kidding, of course. Wish you great success!
Charles October 17, 2012 at 02:02 PM
A consumer would have to evaluate whether a special trip to this store is worth the slight savings buying by volume or weight would provide. Though it is located next to an existing supermarket, a consumer would have to enter two stores (Stater being the other) and wait in an additional check out line. For what? To save a dollar or buy organic? If the future stores aren't opened in the same parking lot as an existing supermarket, then the consumer would have to make a special trip - extra hassle which might make it not worth it. For many people, time and convenience are more important than money or quality.
Chris Botosan October 17, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Charles, If you have not visited the store, you really need to make a special trip. Being a chef I have been there (as have many, many other chefs and amateur chefs have and should visit) and was amazed at the quality and variety of items, many which are not available in supermarkets and certainly not in the quality this store carries! Also you can get "just enough" of anything and believe we you will not want to walk out empty-handed. These gentlemen have made a really nice contribution to our business community and we should all support our new business friends. P.S. Supporting local business brings JOBS and they want to employ young people who are certainly struggling to find them!
Gilroy13 October 17, 2012 at 07:51 PM
You raise a good point. But a lot of us go to Trader Joe's for certain things, even though we can't get all of our shopping done there. I don't think Trader Joe's is hurting for business :-) If you love a place and/or they cater to a specific or specialty need/want of yours, you will make the extra effort. I do agree that being next to a large grocery store was a good idea. You capture people who are already there to buy groceries & won't need to make another stop in the car. The 2-in-1 idea is also clever. You bring a consumer in for the Yogurt, and that consumer also becomes acquainted with Buy 'N Bulk... and vice versa. I live right around the corner, so I will be visiting you. Best of luck to both of the businesses. Welcome to the neighborhood! We love our Canadian friends to the north.
Sarah de Crescenzo (Editor) October 17, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Gilroy13, I'm one of those shoppers! I'll make a separate trip to Trader Joe's even though I live a few blocks from (and do a good amount of shopping at) the Ralphs on Lake Forest Drive.
Kitty Kat October 17, 2012 at 11:50 PM
My daughter and I just recently stopped by and we were just tickled to find such a variety of foods, spices, cereals, oats etc. We bought bags of rice, cereal, rasins, oats, and candy for less than 7 dollars. They have great customer service as well.
SVM November 20, 2012 at 05:27 AM
I just stopped in and was disappointed with the customer service. I had never been in before so I was hoping to get a little help with how it works, maybe find out some popular items. Now I wish I had not purchased anything.......
MisturChips December 04, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Sad to hear such news. I do wonder, though, did you stand still with arms crossed, expecting to fail, or did you actually ask someone for help? I've heard many stories of poor customer service, when many times, it's simply a poor customer. I'm not saying you specifically killed your chances like some folks I've bumped in to at other places, but I'd like to hear more about what happened to cause such a complaint. I didn't know this was in my town, and will plan to go check it out for myself. Perhaps I can find 'salta' licorice, and some seasonings/herbs/spices for my next attempt at making chicken OTHER than on the BBQ!

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