Green Zebra: From food desert to grocery oasis

Green Zebra: From food desert to grocery oasis »Play Video
KATU photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. - What do you get when you cross a 7-Eleven with a New Seasons Market?

You get Green Zebra Grocery, a combination convenience store and natural food store. Instead of Big Gulps, for example, the Green Zebra has local brew on tap.

Green Zebra Grocery is the brainchild of Lisa Sedlar, the former CEO of New Seasons Market. On Tuesday, she'll be opening a Green Zebra store at 3011 N. Lombard Street (in the Kenton neighborhood). The store is in a building that was once the home of a Safeway back in the 1950s.

Part of what Sedlar is aiming to do with the Green Zebra is fill a void. You see, for some people it's not so easy to just run out to the grocery store - they live in what's called a 'food desert.' That's a term for a city where traditional grocery stores have failed and buying food requires a bit of a trek for some folks.

Sedlar doesn't necessarily think Portland is a food desert, but she said some neighborhoods could benefit from having a grocery store in closer proximity. She said her marketing team's goal is to create an area where everything a person needs is within a 20-minute walk or bike ride.

"I grew up in Detroit - that's a food desert," she said. "For miles and miles you don't see a grocery store. But what we're doing is targeting areas that are under served so we can increase access to healthy foods."

Green zebra tomato. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Now if Green Zebra seems like a silly name to you, it all makes sense once you understand where Sedlar got the idea from. She said she was looking for something that stood out and is related to our regional food economy. And if you know your produce, like Sedlar does, you might recognize that a green zebra is a tomato that grows especially well in the Northwest.

Sedlar plans to open two more Green Zebra grocery stores next year - one in the Woodstock neighborhood at 4905 S.E. Woodstock Blvd. and another in the Richmond neighborhood at 4926 S.E. Division Street.

And if you're a job seeker, Green Zebra is hiring. You'll find listings on their website.