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Bulk food store opens in Grand Rapids, aiming to reduce plastic

Extra precaution is taken to keep reusable containers customers bring into the store sanitized.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Opening a new store in the middle of a pandemic was not an easy task for Victoria McClurken and her family. There were some delays with building renovations and slowdowns getting some product in the store. 

However, those obstacles didn't stop Proprietary from opening three weeks ago. The store on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids is a bulk foods store, with the goal of limiting plastic use. 

"We are the first in the area to do complete dry bulk goods," said McClurken, the general manager. "We are focusing on minimal waste and that’s been our mission. The community has been great reaching out to us and excited for us to be here."

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McClurken said the community support for the unique business has been great, and worth the challenges to open. 

Selling the majority of their items in large, bulk bins, Proprietary hopes to reduce plastic use and reduce emissions along the supply chain. 

"You are just paying for the product," said McClurken. "You are cutting costs with gas and emissions and everything that comes when you buy food. So, if you can get more items in bulk, you are saving and helping environment."

The store is opening with a few additional precautions due to COVID-19. Customers must wear a mask in the store and wear gloves when handling scoops for the bins. The business allows customers to bring in their own reusable totes and glass containers for their purchases. They ask those be sanitized, and they have a sink and washing area set up in the store. 

"We also have a sanitary sink here to make sure everything is clean when handling items, so there is no contamination," said McClurken.

The store does sell some glass containers that can be re-used time and time again. They also have compostable bags for customers to use if they don't bring in their own containers. 

Many of the items are locally-sourced. McClurken said they aim to partner with businesses that share the same mission of being more eco-friendly.

"Plastic use is just out of control and it's really important to limit that," said Shane Norris, a customer who said he had been inside the store three times since they opened. "When we have a bulk food thing like this, it enables you to limit your plastic use."

Proprietary is located at 620 Wealthy St. SE. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. 

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