With a larger, newer storefront just off Interstate 70, Natural Grocers completed the move to Frisco from Dillon last week. A line of loyal customers extended out the door on Thursday morning, for the new store’s grand opening.
“Frisco was having a real appetite for natural foods over there,” store manager Marta Right said. “It’s kind of a gateway into the ski resort — it’s a good location.”
The grocery is the second natural foods store to open in Frisco, since Whole Foods opened just a few blocks away in April, 2014. However, Natural Grocers has been in the Summit County community for several years, since it first opened in Dillon about 10 years ago.
Right said the new store is significantly larger, at 15,600 square feet, compared with 10,000 square feet of space at the former location. The store is also bringing on 15 new staff members to assist with the expansion.
“Every department is much bigger,” marketing coordinator Jen Pacher said. “And being by Starbucks is great. We’re thinking people will go and get their coffee… they can come here and sit outside.”
The parcel was put together by NAVA Real Estate Development, with Natural Grocers set as an anchor tenant, a brand new Starbucks, and space for two additional stores.
“We felt they were a really good use, and would work well with our tenants and the surrounding community,” NAVA founder Brian Levitt said in a previous interview. “This is a very prominent retail corridor. It catches a lot of traffic for visitors coming through I-70.”
Since Whole Foods opened, in addition to Safeway and Walmart, Frisco has seen a spike in sales tax revenues for the grocery category. For 2016, grocery sales have been up 8.39 percent year-to-date, and were up every month in 2015 except for May, June and July.
Overall, grocery sales surpassed all of the town’s other categories in the most recent sales tax report, bringing in $301,458 in February. This includes sectors that are often the largest source of revenue in resort towns, including retail, restaurants and hotels.
Though Natural Grocers and Whole Foods will now be closer in proximity, store executives don’t seem too worried.
“We definitely share a lot of property proximity for sure. I can think of four or five in our region that are within the same parking lot,” Whole Foods executive marketing coordinator Heather Larrabee said in a previous interview. “We see a really high degree of crossover shopping. People shop each store for different things.”
Pacher added Natural Grocers’ unique features differentiate the store from the competition. For example, the store features several spices, fruits, nuts and baking ingredients in bulk, frozen and individually packaged for better preservation. All produce is organic, and Natural Grocers requires all dairy products come from animals that are grazed for at least 120 days.
For the new store in particular, the most important piece will be maintaining a loyal customer base from the surrounding area. Right said at the Dillon location, they saw customers from all over— Grand, Park and Eagle County, for example.
“People will make it a monthly trip,” she said. “We have some pretty devoted customers.”
One of those is Jonathan Stembal, who was in line for the opening Thursday morning. The Dillon resident used to walk to the store on a regular bases before the move.
“I would stop by every day or every other day to get fresh vegetables,” he said. “About a year ago, I started going to the nutrition classes. It’s a topic that interests me immensely.”
A new demo kitchen will offer a separate space for the store’s free cooking demonstrations and nutrition classes. Thursday launched with a paleo chicken wraps cooking class and live music.
In the future, the store has a Colorado products fair scheduled for May 14, a food quality tasting for May 21, and a gluten free tasting fair on May 28.
“I love everybody here,” Stembal added. “It’s a great atmosphere.”