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Monday, December 08, 2008

Indianapolis health food pioneer dies

Bob LandmanBob Landman, owner of the venerable Good Earth Natural Foods in Broad Ripple, died of a heart attack on December 6. He was 61 had just turned 62.

Good Earth, which was founded in 1971 by several North Central High School graduates, attracted Landman’s interest when he visited the store to buy a bottle of avocado shampoo in 1972. A year later he bought a 50 percent stake in the business, and the year after that he quit his job as an inspector for the Marion County Health Department to work at the store full-time.

Landman’s two partners, Brett and Kevin Kimberlin, left the business — Kevin to attend Harvard, Brett to serve a 51-year prison sentence (he was paroled in 15 years) after being convicted of a series of bombings in Speedway — and by 1979 he was the sole owner of the store.

Over the years, Good Earth has gone from being a specialty store on the fringes of the grocery industry to a respected local mainstay in what is now the fastest-growing segment of the retail food market. Even as larger competitors such as Wild Oats (now Whole Foods), Fresh Market and Trader Joe’s set up shop and mainstream groceries like Marsh and even Wal-Mart expanded their offerings of organically-produced goods, Landman’s store has continued to thrive. The store does very little advertising, and earns the loyalty of its customers simply by providing low prices and excellent customer service from its knowledgeable employees, some of whom have worked there for decades.

“The normal marketing ploy in the grocery business … is to charge full retail on everything except a handful of loss leaders in the hopes that people will come in the store and buy everything. It’s not a game I care to get into,” Landman said in a 1999 interview with the Indianapolis Business Journal. “Advertising is very expensive and it’s somewhat deceptive. Our marketing strategy has always been to just offer the best possible prices on everything all the time.”

Marketing strategy aside, in no small part people have continued to be loyal to Good Earth (or feel guilty when they shop elsewhere) just because they liked Bob. He was one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet —smart, friendly, generous and funny — and he will be missed.

Bob’s calling will be 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 10 at Leppert Mortuary, 740 East 86th Street. Services follow at 10 a.m. the next day at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, which is on the northeast corner of 42nd Street and Central Avenue.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:26 AM


Thank you for an informative and
touching letter. I knew Bob Landman as a patron of Good Earth for about 30 years. When I heard the news I was at the Good Earth.
I knew Bob as a friendly and vocal
ray of sun. If he wasn't helping someone he would be busy stocking shelves or whatever needed to be taken care of and singing a good part of the time. I found him to be
whimsical and easy going. I will miss him, we all will miss him.

Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:16 PM  
As a graduate of NCHS and one of the original proprietors of Good Earth, I knew Sugar Bob quite well. He is a local icon and will be missed. Bom Shankar Brother Bob, scout the place and make sure they can accomodate our lifesyles and diets. Peace Brother
Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:14 PM  

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