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.
A 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.