Downtown grocery store focuses on healthy, organic

Inventory a work-in-progress as customers express needs
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
-A +A

The focus of Carol Lee Meinhold’s new Downtown Auburn grocery store is gluten-free and organic. But the items she stocks are products she and her family know and use.
“I had become fairly ill and had migraine headaches that were taking over my life,” she said Wednesday. “I found out it was due to food allergies and sensitivities. Two of my children have the same problem. One daughter must be gluten free and my youngest son as well.”
After she removed the allergy-causing foods from her diet, Meinhold got her health back.
“At that time my passion turned to eating healthy and organically,” she said. “It was difficult to take these things out of your diet and find substitutes.”
Her store, called Gaia’s Basket, opened Aug. 14.
“(We have) the main staples of the diet — your main basics — what you need to make breakfast, lunch, dinner, quick snacks, healthy meal-replacement food,” she said.
Most of the produce section is locally grown.
“I would like to expand on it,” she said. “I just want to see what the demand is and that will let me know how to expand on it. … I plan to carry seasonal vegetables and definitely organic.”
She shops for the packaged items from a variety of sources.
“I’ve researched every product that comes in and checked the labels to get the cleanest, healthiest choices that taste good,” she said.
It turns out taste is an important factor.
“There are a lot of gluten-free products out there but many don’t taste good,” she said. “We’ve tried a lot of products over the years and have put together the ones that taste good.”
She also welcomes suggestions from customers for what they’d like to see in the store.
This is Meinhold’s first time to own her own business. She’s a certified occupational therapy assistant and previously worked in patient care at a local skilled nursing facility.
When she decided to finally open the shop — an idea she’s had for 12 years — the Lincoln Way location caught her eye immediately.
“When I walked in to look at it … it just felt like it was the right space,” she said. “I love looking out onto Central Square and the fire pit and having the parking lot in the rear so people have a place to park to get their groceries into their car.”
Auburn resident Kristi Meyer is impressed with the store’s selection.
“I do buy organic and I think it is awesome,” she said. “There’s dish soap, house-cleaning stuff, eggs, cheese. It’s this little mini grocery store, which is just awesome. She has such an incredible selection. I was really impressed with the cleaning selection. … I just look around and think this little space holds all kinds of great things.”
Meinhold describes the inventory as “a work in progress” and has a lot of ideas for the future. Within the next month or so, she’s going to add blended drinks.
“Some will be protein meal replacement drinks. Others will be super food drinks and tastier food and nuts drinks,” she said.
She’s also bringing in pre-made raw foods in the refrigerator section.
“For someone who eats a healthier diet or has a food sensitive diet, there are not very many places right in town that you can get specialized diet — healthy and organic,” she said. “I feel it will be a really nice addition to the neighborhood.”
She’s taking the locally produced theme a step further. Customers can expect to soon find jewelry and artwork from area artists. Meinhold also has added a community bulletin board for local events.
With the store finally open and a fairly extensive remodeling process completed, Meinhold said she is grateful for all the help she received from members of the community — from painting to moving concrete and other chores.
“If it weren’t for them, it wouldn’t have happened,” she said. “They helped keep the cost down because they wanted the store to be here.”
Meinhold grew up in the Bay Area but has lived in Auburn for 10 years
“When I’d come through, I felt this area and the Sierra were home to me,” she said. “Auburn is so great with the canyon and (so many other places) nearby to visit.”
Reach Gloria Young at


Gaia’s Basket
937 Lincoln Way, Downtown Auburn
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday and closed Monday.
Phone: (530) 820-3711
Website: Under