JACKSON HEIGHTS — A sprawling new organic food store opened last week on 37th Avenue, an offshoot of a collection of family-run health stores that were inspired by the owner's Hindu guru and designed to cater to residents who move to the area from Manhattan.
Downtown Natural Market opened Friday afternoon in an 8,000-square-foot space between 84th and 85th streets.
The owners Mike Patel, 62, and his son Amit, 36, own the Jackson Heights Health Food store at 83-06 37th Ave., as well as two other Downtown Natural Markets in Downtown Brooklyn and Flatbush.
The family's path to operating a chain of health food stores started with a bit of divine inspiration.
Mike Patel ran a small candy store in Jamaica for 15 years before his Hindu guru Pramukh Swami, who lives in Gujarat, India, told him to open a health food store, he said.
He opened the first Jackson Heights Health Food store in 2000 in a 700-square-foot space near his current store.
And now he and his son own and operate three Downtown Natural Market stores as well as the small health food store.
The neighborhood's increased demand for organic food, vitamins and natural supplements pushed them to open the larger store when the space became available, according to Mike Patel.
"There has been a good demand on this store, and this store is getting smaller," he said, adding that he's stocked the shelves with more items as customers have requested them.
The new store features a dairy section, including organic and imported cheeses, as well as natural cleaning supplies, organic dog and cat food, a larger selection of produce and an expanded frozen food aisle.
As the neighborhood's changed, Mike said, they've tried to change with it.
"A lot of young people move here from Manhattan and they like organic food," he said. "People wanted a variety, so we opened another store."