By Marsha Bonecutter
You might say Ed Elbrecht took a “seed” of an idea, allowed it to “sprout” and now it has grown into a thriving and successful health food store called 14 Carrot Whole Foods. Located at 5300 Sunset Boulevard in Lexington, South Carolina, 14 Carrot is the culmination of years of experience in the health food industry. Ed has come a long way from his humble beginning--helping a friend grow sprouts in Athens, Ohio.
“I became interested in health foods after graduating from college,” said Ed. “I graduated from Ohio University in 1978 and moved to Chicago to work as a photographer. I remember buying in bulk at a little health food store there. I guess it was cheaper for me,” laughed Ed.
The windy city turned out to be too big for Ed, so he bought a van, spent the winter re-building the engine in his basement, and then made his escape. After doing some travelling, Ed moved to Columbia, SC and opened his own sprout growing business called Solar Farms. “The business brought me into health food stores on a weekly basis,” said Ed, “gradually I learned more about nutrition and different types of health food diets. After about 15 years growing sprouts, I decided that starting a health food store would be a great business.”
Ed met his wife, Janet, in 1986. The couple met while taking a Macrobiotic cooking class. They were married two years later. Their dream of starting a health food store was a common one, so it was very fortunate that they met Carter Breland at a macrobiotic pot luck dinner.
Carter, a retired Lexington county school system personnel director, was recovering from cancer. His doctors gave him no hope that he could beat his melanoma, so Carter had begun following a strict Macrobiotic diet in 1983. Carter extended his life another 14 years.
Both Ed and Carter felt their area needed a complete natural foods store and they opened 14 Carrot Whole Foods in West Columbia in February 1991. When asked about the clever name they chose for their store, Ed replied, “We weren’t creative enough to come up with a name off the top of our heads, so we found lists of health food stores to get ideas. We only found one 14 Carrot and it wasn’t in the south east, so we changed the end of the name and kept it. It’s been a fun store name”.
Those early days were a challenge, with Carter, Ed and a friend of Ed’s, Glenda Ford, splitting the 7 day schedule. Ed still had a very successful sprout business and was dividing his time between the two ventures. “I grew alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts,” said Ed. “When I sold the business in 1997 we were growing 6 to 8 thousand pounds per week.” In the beginning, while Ed was balancing two endeavors, Carter was instrumental in drawing interest and customers to the store. Being a former personnel director, he had many friends and acquaintances. “When the news of his victory over cancer and his substantial weight loss got around, folks came into the store and word spread from there,” explained Ed. The 1,600 square foot store doubled in size by 1996. The present location, 6 ½ miles away in Lexington, was opened in May of 2000, and is twice the size of the original store.
14 Carrot is a full line health food store and carries a large selection of supplements, health and beauty aids, general groceries, refrigerated and frozen foods, fresh organic/natural meats and deli foods, organic produce, and a bulk department featuring over 500 items. When asked to name a few favorites, Ed said, “It’s hard to name just a few. I love the fresh organic salmon from 200 miles north of the Shetland Islands. I also like the organic ‘no sulfites added’ wines. We also support local agriculture and farmers by carrying Certified South Carolina grown produce and meats throughout the year.”
Whether your needs are vegetarian, vegan, wheat/gluten free, or raw, stop in to 14 Carrot Whole Foods, where their extensive selection will be the solution for you. “We believe that our customer service and knowledgeable staff are second to none and invite you to experience it for yourself,” says Ed.
“My favorite job is helping the customers. I love showing them products they aren’t familiar with and helping them learn natural methods of dealing with health issues. It is my goal for our store to meet the needs of the natural community.”
The communities in and around Lexington, SC have benefited from the services of 14 Carrot Whole Foods for 20 years. Thank you, Ed Elbrecht and staff and here’s to many years of continued success!