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From the desk of Deanne Paul

As I pulled into a parking spot in front of the historic First National Bank building on the McKinney downtown square, I glanced up at Essentialz Market & Cafe. Outdoor patio seating welcomed me as I approached the steps to enter. With all the September TAOLB magazine ideas for green living still fresh in my mind, I was eager to learn more about the mission of Essentialz Market & Cafe – a zero-waste grocery store, deli, soda shop, and tap. As a new and cutting edge idea, a zero-waste grocery store is not something I associate with a bygone era. Therefore, I was incredibly surprised how the atmosphere at Essentialz elicited feelings of a slower pace, reminiscent of an older time.

Theresa Harris, owner of Essentialz Market & Cafe, graciously shared her story with Lauren and me. The story began seven years ago with a Spring Break project to make her own cleaning supplies – free of chemicals and potentially harmful ingredients. Her background as a high school chemistry teacher paired with experience working with young children through ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) gave Theresa a keen awareness of the importance of caring for our bodies and our environment. After several formulations – and selling to family and friends and at local markets (such as Trade Days) – two formulas remain. These top sellers are beautifully housed in wine bottles and are available for purchase at Essentialz.

The “All Purpose” and “Glass & Granite” cleaners are safe, effective, and petroleum free. Selling them in wine bottles means they are not only beautiful enough to display directly on your counter, they are also refillable. Simply bring your empty bottle back to the store! When Theresa researched the manufacturing process, she discovered packaging often costs more than the product contained inside. As consumers we are paying more for what will end up in a landfill than for the product itself! This eye-opening reality led Theresa to use glass containers for her cleaning products. Her exploration of ways to eliminate costly waste continued and the scope of her desire to find ways to care for our bodies and our environment broadened, ultimately leading to her beautiful store, Essentialz.

So how does one achieve “zero-waste”? At Essentialz, this goal is at the forefront of all operations. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own market tote for groceries and to pack reusable containers to fill with bulk items such as pasta, nuts, cereal, and grains. They don’t have to be fancy containers – Theresa says some customers will even bring in small lunch bags. There are also reusable storage containers offered at the store for purchase. Also, in keeping with the goal of zero-waste, you won’t find disposable straws or “to-go” coffee cups at Essentialz. Relax and enjoy your coffee in a mason jar. However, if you must have a straw, stainless steel ones are what you’ll find here.

Something you won’t find in the front dining area of the store is a trashcan! The goal at Essentialz is to minimize what ends up in the landfill. Recycle and composting receptacles are available for everyone. In addition, the staff uses “green” practices when disposing of items in the trash receptacle at the back of the store.

You will discover a truly unique and charming shopping and dining experience at Essentialz. Theresa even encourages her patrons to hand her their list and enjoy a meal or beverage while she packs their groceries. Available for purchase are Boar’s Head deli meats & cheeses, milk, eggs, butter, meats, produce, baked goods, wine, and more. It’s like shopping the perimeter…everything you need, but better! Did I mention Essentialz even has grocery delivery!

Ultimately, Theresa’s dream is to be part of a movement toward change in the awareness of how we consume and dispose of items. Taking action through positive modifications in our daily lives (no matter how small they seem) makes us responsible stewards of the many resources on earth. With the heart and passion for teaching still at her core, Theresa offers educational events to provide the tools and inspiration for people to take action. A variety of classes are offered at Essentialz. Some of them are even cooking classes – such as the recently offered class on vegan cooking. Stay current on the happenings at Essentialz by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

As our visit with Theresa came to an end, Lauren and I marveled over the elegant space. Essentialz is unlike any grocery store experience we’ve ever had! There is something for everyone. Children will appreciate the stack of board games in the corner. Adults can sip on a glass of wine or enjoy a beer from the tap. Feel free to purchase cereal by the bowl or indulge in some homemade ice cream. And the freshly made sandwiches might just be the perfect end to a long day or week for any age.

I encourage you to make time to linger a little in life, as Lauren and I did on that rainy Friday afternoon at Essentialz. While their focus is rooted in the innovative mission of zero-waste, Essentialz will delightfully (and maybe unexpectedly) transport you back to a simpler time and place. Relax and connect to feed the soul – then grab those groceries on your way out and you’ll be set for tomorrow!


To read more about McKinney, head over to our Visit McKinney page.

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