Scarborough natural foods market expanding to Portland

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PORTLAND — For Lois and Dan Porta, opening a second Lois’ Natural Marketplace isn’t simply an expansion of enterprise, it’s a culmination of lifestyle.

The new space, at the corner of India and Middle streets, sandwiched between Two Fat Cats Bakery and Micucci’s Grocery Co., is approximately 2,300 square feet and is scheduled to open May 19.

It will boast the same offerings as the couple’s Route 1 store in Scarborough: grocery items, homemade soups and salads daily, lunch and breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, and dinners to go. The new space will also eventually incorporate an organic juice bar. 

When the couple opened the first Lois’ more than 20 years ago, it was to fill a need few others satiated. The Portas had recently left The Good Day Market in Portland,  one of the first co-ops in the city, which dated to the 1970s. 

“When we first moved to Portland, there (were very few) options to buy organic food,” Dan Porta said Monday afternoon. There also weren’t as many organic farmers, he noted.

The Portas devoted several years to the co-op before opening an establishment that catered more to their personal philosophy.

Recognizing that informing residents about how to eat healthy was as important as giving them non-genetically modified and organic products, Lois’ also used its deli counter to demonstrate how to eat and prepare non-meat products, like tofu and tempeh. 

“We started all this because it’s important to us,” Lois said. 

Now, nearly 22 years later, the Portas are expanding to the neighborhood they’ve wanted to have a stake in for a decade.

There are also three alternative natural markets in the area: Rosemont Produce Market on Commercial Street, the Portland Food Co-op on Congress Street, and Whole Foods Market off of Franklin Street.  

“I don’t see any of the stores here as competing,” said Lois. “I think we’re all helping each other to build (stronger resources) to support farmers and the community … we’re here to complement each other.”

Each establishment has a different mission, Dan said. There may be product crossover, but he said each enterprise fits “into the community in a very important way.”

Part of the social movement to consume organic products is “empowering” consumers with choices, Lois said. They both agreed that the community is lucky to have a Whole Foods nearby, but smaller, local establishments provide an outlet for smaller farms and producers who might not yield enough to stock shelves at the larger grocery store. 

“Dan and I are totally committed to supporting farmers as much as possible,” Lois said.

Her husband said they also want to get to know the India Street neighborhood.

“I think there’s a vitality,” Lois said. “People working together to create something for the community.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

Sidebar Elements

Lois and Dan Porta, owners of Lois’ Natural Marketplace, stand outside the new location on India Street in Portland. The store is slated to open Tuesday, May 19. 

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.