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New Yorker carves niche in natural food

ASHLAND ­ Businessman Gary Einhorn didn't have to be sold on thearea during his first visit to the Rogue Valley in 1987.

He promptly went back to New York, packed his bags ­ and his business,Beardsley's Natural Foods ­ and moved to Ashland.

Einhorn, 55, who hails from New York City, figured the niche his naturalfood distributorship was filling in the Hudson River Valley would stretch3,000 miles to the Rogue Valley.

People all over are interested in supporting local food producersand eating healthy, natural foods, he explained, later adding, AndI wanted to live as well as work here.

Ten years later he has nearly two dozen items from local producers thathe distributes to about 55 customers, including stores, restaurants andhospitals throughout the Rogue Valley and into Klamath Falls.

However, he did make a couple of adjustments. Back in New York, his nichewas entirely natural foods. In the more sparsely populated Southern Oregon,he has broadened his business to include natural/specialty gourmet foods.

I had to expand a little, but most gourmet foods are also naturalfoods, he said.

He represents small producers such as Rising Sun Farms in Phoenix, MamaKnish in Cave Junction and Global Pantry World Food Co. in Ashland. He sellsto large stores such as Safeway and Fred Meyer as well as locally-ownedmarkets.

Working out of an Ashland warehouse, he now has a full-time employeeand several part-time workers who are called to step in when needed.

My niche is that I'm a hands-on, local food wholesaler/distributor,he said. Being hands-on, I can monitor and provide feedback to myproducers. It's an intimate relationship.

Einhorn has a bachelor's degree in economics with a minor in philosophyfrom Wilkes University in Wilkes Barre, Pa. He also has an advanced degreein textiles from England.

Before starting his own business, he worked for the Monsanto Co. in theBig Apple. His work included traveling around the nation to various companiesto demonstrate with Monsanto fabric.

But the corporate lifestyle didn't sit well with him. the age of 33,he was beginning to have health problems.

I felt I needed to make some major changes in my life, hesaid.

The Army veteran changed his diet and his job, becoming a professionaltennis teacher, a job he continued for nearly five years.

Pursuing an interest in natural foods, he began working in a tofu factoryin New York City. That job included making deliveries in the city and upstatewhere he would go to natural food stores and natural food processors.

In 1984, he started Beardsley's Natural Foods, delivering everythingfrom vegetarian knishes to tofu-related products to some 40 locations. Hisclients included colleges, farmer's markets, health food stores and restaurants.

I started it from scratch with the idea that many small food producersneeded someone to market, distribute and watch over ­ physically takecare of their products, he said.

The company name was derived from his ex-wife's maiden name, he said,adding that it has a good ring to it.

It's kind of an old American name, he said. It seemsto fit.

A decade ago, the few stores ordering natural food items in the RogueValley were fairly limited, he recalled.

But I knew if one person could take a basket full of these products,go to different locations representing these small producers, they couldexpand their business and I would have an occupation, he said.

Besides, his move coincided with a changing mood across the country,he said.

More people are concerned about their health, and taking the responsibilityfor their health, he said. That's true wherever you are.

No matter whether it's the Hudson River Valley or the Rogue Valley.

Transplanted New Yorker Gary Einhorn displays some of the natural foods he distributes from his Ashland warehouse. - Photo by Andy Atkinson</P