When the announcement came more than a year ago, the news was that Boulder-based Sunflower Farmers Market would open a grocery store in Grand Junction in the fall of 2012.
The business’ debut ultimately was delayed, and it’s now Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market whose name appears above the entrance.
The end result, however, is unchanged: Grand Valley residents are days away from having another option for natural and organic food and products.
Hundreds of people are expected to pour into Sprouts when the doors slide open at 7 a.m. Wednesday. Once inside, they’ll find plenty of staples carried by any supermarket. They’ll also discover features and items unique to grocery shopping here, including an expansive selection of bulk foods and produce, several types of ground meat and sausage that are made fresh daily in-house and a special savings promotion known as “Double Ad Wednesday,” where the past week’s and current week’s sale fliers overlap, doubling the number of items on sale.
Sprouts likely will pull some shoppers away from traditional supermarkets like Albertsons, City Market, Safeway and Walmart. But it may compete more directly with Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage.
“It is a natural fit,” said Doug Sanders, Sprouts’ chief executive officer. “There’s not a huge presence of natural foods in the Grand Junction area, so we felt like it was an opportunity to fill a void in the community.”
Sprouts’ new 28,000-square-foot store is located at 1450 W. Independent Ave., joining Hobby Lobby and Sonic in the Rimrock Crossing Shopping Center. The store is about half the size of the City Market that opened at 24 and Patterson roads in 2010.
The store was originally scheduled to be a Sunflower Farmers Market, but that changed last spring when Sunflower and Sprouts merged. The merger pushed back the opening of the store.
“There really wasn’t a lot of difference between the two companies. Our goal with the merger was to try to have the best of both worlds,” Sanders said.
Like Natural Grocers, Sprouts specializes in natural and organic food and personal care products and offers a wide selection of gluten- and dairy-free items and other products to fit specialized diets. But unlike Natural Grocers, Sprouts features a full-service deli and a wide variety of produce and meat.
And, according to Sanders, the price of Sprouts’ produce is equal to or less than conventional grocery stores.
“We have very aggressively priced, fresh produce,” he said. “It’s our calling card. We source and distribute the produce ourselves.”
Natural Grocers opened in Grand Junction in 2002 at 2464 U.S. Highway 6&50 in the Grand Mesa Shopping Center. It has since expanded twice, with the most recent one in 2010 bumping up the store’s footprint to 15,200 square feet.
The Lakewood-based chain went public last summer. It recently reported that net sales increased 28 percent to $89.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2012 and increased 27 percent to $336.4 million for the 2012 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
A Natural Grocers spokeswoman didn’t return a call seeking comment about what impact the company might feel with the opening of Sprouts.
Sprouts’ Grand Junction store will employ roughly 100 people. Ninety percent are new employees, with the remaining 10 percent coming to Grand Junction from other stores, according to store manager Mike Rogers.
Rogers has relocated to Grand Junction. The 38-year grocery store veteran worked for four years with Sunflower prior to the merger and managed a Sprouts store in Greenwood Village before coming to the Western Slope.
“We’re very excited to be here,” Rogers said while taking a break from stocking shelves. “There’s been a lot of people knocking on the door.”
Wednesday’s opening will feature exclusive coupons, free food samples, giveaways and prizes and educational events.
Grand Junction’s is the 23rd Sprouts store in Colorado. A store in Longmont opened earlier this month, and another will open in Denver later this year.