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Published: Tuesday, 10/21/2003

Low-carbohydrate dieters embrace Sylvania grocery

Linda Martz says she expects her inventory to be replenished by the weekend. Linda Martz says she expects her inventory to be replenished by the weekend.

Eager customers wiped out Linda Martz's small Sylvania food market last week as though it were the only grocery store in a coastal village under a storm watch.

Call it Hurricane Atkins.

Ms. Martz, a onetime airline flight attendant, is among a growing number of entrepreneurs around the nation opening grocery stores catering to people on low-carbohydrate, high protein diets.

Word of mouth and flyers put up by fans of the diets with names like Atkins, South Beach, and the Zone have kept the cash register at Lindy's Low Carb Market beeping since she opened a month ago at 6616 Monroe St. in downtown Sylvania.

A mention during a Toledo TV newscast last week put a huge dent in her inventory, which she said she expects will be replenished by the weekend.

Still, a steady stream of customers filed in to the 800-square-foot store yesterday morning. “I'm pushing the diet to everyone I know,” said Pam Dicken, a factory production worker who left with a loaf of low-carbohydrate bread after driving 45 miles from Tiffin.

Linda Wyome, a pipefitter from Oak Harbor, said she has lost 20 pounds since going on a low-carb diet July 4. “But I've been going off of it on weekends because I can't find that much to eat,” she said as Ms. Martz rang up $38 in purchases . “I came here so I don't have to do that.”

The owner is aware of two low-carbohydrate-products stores in the Cleveland area, but believes that hers is the first store of its kind in the Toledo area.

An Internet search found that cities such as Portland, Ore., have as many as three stores.

Entrepreneurs in San Ramon, Calif., have begun franchising the concept under the name Castus Low Carb Superstore. Start-up costs are $145,000 to $235,000, according to the firm's Web site.

Lindy's shelves include reduced-carb ice cream, tortillas, and even margarita mix.

The owner, who follows the Atkins diet, takes the $6 bottle of mix along to Mexican restaurants so she can imbibe guilt-free.

She stocks the mix in powdered form for a customer who slips it into her suitcase for trips.

Ms. Martz, 53, researched low-carbohydrate products on the internet before opening the store. She has a background in social work and marketing, but hasn't had her own business since operating a photography store 25 years ago.

Flyers advertise classes promising to teach participants how to make a reduced-carb Thanksgiving feast.

As customers filed in yesterday, Ms. Martz walked through the store promoting some product. But in at least one case, she persuaded a woman to return a package of reduced-carb “hot cereal” to the shelves.

“This stuff is gross,” she told the customer. “I'm sending it all back.”

Later, she confided to a reporter: “I don't want people to eat things they don't like, because they won't come back.”

Not everyone is crazy about the products sold at low-carb stores. Claudia David-Roscoe, owner of Claudia's Natural Food Market in West Toledo, has no quarrel with reduced-carbohydrate diets. But she encourages people to buy low-carbohydrate vegetables rather than processed foods.

She acknowledged that requests for such foods have skyrocketed at her store, but Claudia's stocks few of them. She said she wishes store proprietors well but suspects that low-carb diets may be a passing fad.

William Sedlock, a 60-year-old chef in metro Toledo, disagreed. A large man who has lost 47 pounds since going on a low-carb diet 11 months ago, he was at Lindy's to buy a loaf of bread to take on a trip to the Smoky Mountains.

“It's going to be a lifetime thing for me,” he said of his current way of eating.

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