- September 29, 2021
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Not many San Diegans can afford a stay at the ultra-luxurious Golden Door wellness spa secretly nestled in the hills of San Marcos. But now they can afford to eat like the spa’s well-heeled guests.
On Saturday, the Golden Door Country Store opened for year-round business on a 15-acre farm plot at the west end of Golden Door’s 630-acre property. For sale in the open-walled market are the same preserves, granola, honey, fresh-squeezed orange juice, olive oil, cookies and bread that Golden Door guests pay $10,000 a week to consume. The prices here are considerably lower and all proceeds go to children’s charities statewide.
The store is the brainchild of Golden Door general manager Kathy Van Ness and executive chef Greg Frey Jr., who first launched a small farm stand on the property at 314 Deer Springs Road five years ago. It sold excess produce from the spa’s onsite farm, but was only open one or two days a week and only during the summer months.
Then came the pandemic, which temporarily shut down the 63-year-old spa and changed America’s shopping habits. Frey said many of the California specialty farmers he purchased produce from for Golden Door guests were suddenly struggling with the loss of business from closed restaurants and farmers markets. Meanwhile, fresh produce and meat shortages in chain supermarkets led consumers to start shopping more at specialty retailers, like butcher shops and farmer-run produce stands.
Recognizing the need to support family-run farms and businesses during the pandemic and to connect more deeply with the spa’s North County neighbors, Frey and Van Ness decided to grow the Country Store into a year-round enterprise.
The open-walled, barnlike store sells a wide variety of Golden Door packaged foods and health and beauty products, as well as produce items grown on its property, like fresh avocados, bags of citrus fruit and bottled olive oil, marmalade and honey. Depending on the season, Frey said the spa grows from 30 percent to 70 percent of the produce its guests consume each week, but the rest is supplied by California farms and artisan food-makers, who are also represented at the store. Their products include fresh vegetables and fruits, eggs, locally roasted coffee beans, cut flowers, orchid plants and more.
The store is shaded by giant oak and sycamore trees that were planted on the property more than 150 years ago at what was once the 1887-era dairy farm of early Twin Oaks Valley settler Russell Cox. The remains of the home’s clay tile floor and chimney still stand on the property. Behind the store is a new wood platform where Frey and other Golden Door staff will offer demonstrations and talks on Saturday afternoons. Topics will include cooking demonstrations and nutritional advice. Yoga classes are also planned.
And in 2022, Van Ness said Golden Door plans to expand the Country Store building to include an outdoor café with an open-air kitchen, wood-fired pizza oven and coffee bar. They are also planning an onsite bakery for Frey’s Golden Door breads, which are now being sold only on Saturdays at the store. Hopefully by December, Frey will also begin hosting periodic chef’s dinners at the store, where he’ll cook with other local like-minded chefs who prioritize serving products from local farms and ranches.
Van Ness said she worried a bit how the expanded Country Store project would do. But on opening day Saturday, nearly 400 people showed up and bought out all of the bread, cookies, granola and other packaged Golden Door items within hours.
One of the shop’s signature products is the spa’s Energizer Potassium Broth, the very same vegetable drink that all of Golden Door’s 42 weekly guests drink at 11 a.m. each day to fuel their daily activities, like tai chi and fencing lessons. So even if Country Store visitors aren’t able to tour the famously private spa property, they can now get an authentic taste of it.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For details, visit goldendoor.com/a-way-of-life/country-store.
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