Written by: Sarah Bailey
This week I had the pleasure of visiting the newly opened Tree of Life Center (TOL) in downtown Clarksville. It has been a long time in coming, and I was giddy with anticipation as I pulled into the packed parking lot. I first heard of the plans for the TOL last September when I had a chance encounter with one if it’s investors at a local bakery, who shared his plans for the TOL.
To say the news was welcome to me would be a huge understatement. I hail from the very organic Pacific Northwest, and up until my move to
Ft. Campbell, I had always been accustomed to having a wide variety of farmers markets, natural food stores, and holistic medicine shops right in my own neighborhood. Truth be told, my first grocery shopping experience here was a shock. Where was I going to find grass fed beef? Or organic produce? And for the love of all that is good and Holy, somebody please point me in the direction of a good cup of coffee! Dramatic, I know. I managed to adjust, mostly by meeting other likeminded ladies at Clarksville Crunchy Ladies, who shared their local shopping secrets- little Amish stores like the bakery I mentioned, or clandestine raw milk salesmen out in the hills of Kentucky. And while I’m thankful for these resources, it’s not the same as having a one stop shop like Whole Foods in your neighborhood. Which brings me back to TOL.
My immediate impression of TOL was that it is very serene. The view of the river is beautiful, the lighting is low and warm, and the tall ceiling makes it feel very airy and unconstrained. You’ll see the produce as soon as you walk in, and the first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful “dinosaur” kale. “Look! We haven’t had this since we left Washington!”. Into the cart it went, along with some other “must haves”.
I was impressed. The produce was priced well, competitive with the Commissary even. A three pound bag of organic Cameo apples was $5.99, and that lovely kale was $2.29 a bunch, which was half the price of Kroger.
At the cold case, I was pleasantly surprised to see my favorite local milk, JD Country Milk, priced at a low $2.99 per half gallon. I had paid $3.75 the day before at a competitor’s, and unfortunately had stocked up for the week. As we perused the next few aisles, my exuberance faded just a bit. The grocery prices were high. Like Whole Foods high. I’m sure this is due to buying power; TOL can’t compete with the massive buying power of grocery giants like Kroger or Walmart. I skipped most grocery items, though I couldn’t resist grabbing a bag of sesame seaweed for my kids- it’s a favorite treat we normally get at Trader Joe’s. More expensive? Yes. But I’ll gladly pay a dollar more to save an hour’s drive.
In addition to their produce, another area TOL really shines is their personal care section. They have a huge assortment of essential oils, toiletries, make up, and they carry some locally made products like Meant to Bee Organics. Check out was a snap, and I enjoyed chatting with their friendly and enthusiastic staff. Patricia offered me a sample of a tasty bakery experiment, which is when I noticed a sign-up sheet for cooking classes.
That brings me to my final thought. TOL is more than just a grocery store. They intend to be a real presence in Clarksville, with plans for classes on things from canning to gardening. The owners seem to have a real heart for teaching and for this community. Construction has already started on their expansion, which will include a yoga studio, bakery, and even an Espresso stand! It looks like this Northwest girl might just get that good cup of coffee after all!