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Longmont gets lucky as natural grocers sprout


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By Beth Potter December 21, 2012

Crews are preparing a Sprouts Farmers Market for an opening on Jan. 2 at the former home of a Borders bookstore in the St. Vrain Centre off Hover Street in south Longmont. Also, Lucky's Market is scheduled to open in Longmont early in 2013. Trader Joe's, a natural grocery store chain, will open a store in Boulder in 2013, while homegrown natural grocer Alfalfa's Market is planning a new store in Louisville.

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  • Tracey Premus stocks shelves at the new Sprouts Farmers Market in Longmont in preparation for its scheduled Jan. 2 opening. The grocer is going into an approximately 19,000-square-foot space that formerly was home to a Borders bookstore at 1101 S. Hover St.
    (Jonathan Castner)


  • Bo Sharon, co-owner, Lucky’s Market

LONGMONT — Organic and gourmet foodies in Longmont have reason to rejoice. The city is expected to get not one but two natural grocery stores in 2013: a Sprouts Farmers Market and a Lucky's Market.

Lucky's owners Bo and Trish Sharon searched for a spot for their new store for a couple of years before deciding on the 26,000-square-foot space at 700 Ken Pratt Blvd. in the Parkway Center, a couple of doors down from an existing Safeway store. The Longmont Sprouts is going into an approximately19,000-square-foot former Borders bookstore location at 1101 S. Hover St.

"When opportunities line up, you take them when you can get them," said Bo Sharon. The first Lucky's opened in North Boulder near Quince Avenue and Broadway nearly a decade ago. The Sharons recently opened the first Lucky's Bakehouse and Creamery, a baked-good treats and organic ice cream store across the parking lot from the grocery store.

As competition heats up between the newbies and traditional grocery stores such as King Soopers (Kroger Inc., NYSE: KR) and Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY), Bo Sharon said his store stands out because of its personal level of service and locally sourced products. The Boulder Lucky's is just a couple of blocks south of a Safeway grocery store, "so it's nothing new to us," Sharon said. A Safeway spokesman for the Denver region did not return a call for comment about the two planned new grocery stores in Longmont.

Sprouts Farmers Market also touts its top-notch employees as a draw for customers, said Bill Falconer, the Longmont store's manager.

"I'm not worried whatsoever," Falconer said about grocery competition in the Longmont market. "With our superior customer service and our overall (low) prices, I think we'll do just fine."

Some of the Longmont residents Lucky's expects to draw have been driving to the Boulder grocery store to shop, as have folks from as far east as Frederick, Bo Sharon said. Some 80 or more new employees will be hired to staff the new store, he said.

There is "pent-up demand" for new natural and organic stores and products in Longmont, Falconer said, pointing to the number of people who have stopped him in the parking lot or walked up to the front doors of the store to ask when it will open. That opening is scheduled for 7 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2.

Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market bought formerly Boulder-based Sunflower Farmers Market in March and changed its name to Sprouts. Sunflower had 36 stores in eight states, including 12 in Colorado. Sprouts plans to open stores in Denver and Grand Junction after the store in Longmont is open, Falconer said.

"We are going to be different" from existing stores, Falconer said, pointing to Sprouts' bulk-food products, its all-natural meats section and its vitamin and supplements areas as unique to the store. "People who want to eat healthy and be nutrition-conscious, they're going to get the benefits here more than they would anywhere else."

Natural and independent grocers most commonly do well in places where many residents have advanced college degrees and high incomes, said David Livingston, a grocery store analyst and owner of DJL Enterprises in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Boulder County has one of the highest percentages of residents with advanced college degrees in the nation, according to various national polls in recent years. Being near a major university such as the University of Colorado-Boulder doesn't hurt either, Livingston said.

"It's a way of life and a culture to have these, and that's why Wild Oats started there," Livingston said.

Such alternative grocery stores as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI) have developed almost cultlike followings of shoppers, Livingston said, something other up-and-coming stores must do if they are to survive. In and around Denver, such grocery stores are developing a bigger market and are able to differentiate themselves, he said. Livingston has done consulting work in the past in Denver for Safeway, King Soopers and the Avanza stores, which are targeted toward the Hispanic market.

The popularity of both the Boulder and Longmont outdoor farmers markets have created more "food awareness," with area residents, especially younger people, who are getting interested in organic vegetable farming, said Steve Hoffman, owner of Compass Natural Marketing, a natural-foods industry marketing firm. Longmont can support the two new stores and possibly others, based on projected demand, Hoffman said.

"As the market matures, who is to say that a Whole Foods won't decide to open a store there, too?" Hoffman said. "These stores will create and broaden that market."

Both Lucky's and Sprouts will have onsite bakeries. Sprouts will staff a vitamin area with two or three employees. A Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage at 1745 N. Main St. in Longmont also sells vitamins and supplements.

With even national retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) selling organic fruits and vegetables these days, there's new customer interest in looking for healthy food choices, Bo Sharon said. "You can't not start asking questions about 'Where does my food come from?' It's a surge in America to eat healthy."

Area’s health focus fuels Trader Joe’s, Alfalfa’s move

BOULDER — Trader Joe’s, a natural grocery store chain with a cult following among some customers, plans to open a store in Boulder in 2013, while homegrown natural grocer Alfalfa’s Market is planning a new store in Louisville.

Monrovia, California,-based Trader Joe’s Co. Inc. in February unveiled plans for a 14,000-square-foot store at the site of a former Applebee’s restaurant at 1906 28th St. on the north end of the Twenty Ninth Street retail district. No store groundbreaking date or opening time frame has been made public, said Alison Mochizuki, a spokeswoman for the 367-store chain. Trader Joe’s has developed a loyal following for many of its store-brand products including Charles Shaw wine, which is called “Two-Buck Chuck” because of its low price. But liquor will not be sold at the store in Boulder, Mochizuki has said.

In Louisville, Alfalfa’s grocery store is slated to open sometime in 2013 at 707 E. South Boulder Road in building that formerly housed a Safeway Inc. store (NYSE: SWY). City council members have approved up to $800,000 in tax rebates for the store over a three-year period after it opens. The 24,000-square-foot store is expected to anchor a new development in the area that will include more than 100 apartments and retail space.

The Boulder-based grocer also can receive a 50 percent rebate of Louisville’s use taxes and permit fees. No opening date has been set, and the Louisville planning department must give final approval to the project before construction begins.

Louisville planners have estimated that the store could bring as many as 100 full- and part-time jobs and generate up to $3 million in sales-tax revenue in the first 10 years that it is open.

Trader Joe’s’ plan to open in Boulder is the latest chapter of the region’s natural-grocery dominance. The California chain’s interest in Colorado “shows the sophistication for food culture in our market,” said Steve Hoffman, owner of Compass Natural Marketing, an industry marketing group.

Alfalfa’s Market opened at 1651 Broadway in Boulder and was later acquired by Wild Oats Markets Inc. (former Nasdaq: OATS). Wild Oats merged with Austin, Texas,-based Whole Foods Market Inc. (Nasdaq: WFMI). Alfalfa’s in Boulder reopened at the Broadway location in 2011.



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