It’s been a long time coming, but Longmont finally has its own large-scale natural/organic grocer.
Sprouts Farmers Market opened its doors this week in the store formerly occupied by Borders on South Hover Road, and it is expected to address a market gap that has been waiting to be filled for years.
With the exploding popularity of natural and organic products over the last couple of decades, it only made sense that a store like Alfalfa’s or Whole Foods would make its way to Longmont, given the city’s demographic shift in recent years.
Now, the increasing number of people with Boulder values who have moved to Longmont for various reasons — financial not the least among them — won’t have to drive to the People’s Republic for their feel-good groceries.
Sure, Longmont has Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, and King Soopers and Safeway have expanded their natural and organic offerings. But the opening of a dedicated natural/ organic grocery store marks a long awaited development for some, and is perhaps another sign that historically conservative, rural Longmont is being swayed by its hippie big sister to the south. (After all, it’s Longmont, not Boulder, that is leading the lefty environmental activist charge against hydraulic fracturing in the state.)
But the arrival of Sprouts is the result of a long journey. It took more than three years for Sprouts to find a place to put the store. At one point, a sign saying that the market was “coming soon” was posted at the Twin Peaks Mall, but that deal fell through.
Bill Falconer, Sprouts store manager, says grocery store officials weren’t aware at the time of the current plans to raze the current mall and rebuild it in the vein of Twenty Ninth Street in Boulder. Moving into a short-term space and being surrounded by construction didn’t sound like a good option for the store, he explained. Among the other sites considered was a location on Main Street.
Sprouts CEO Doug Sanders told BW that the sign placed at Twin Peaks generated a lot of interest and calls from the public inquiring about the timing of the opening, but “it was going to take a while to put all of the pieces together” for the redevelopment of the mall, so Sprouts began to look elsewhere.
As it turned out, one of Sprouts’ former competitors, Sunflower Farmers Market, was also angling for the Longmont market and had signed a lease to take over the former Borders space. When the two companies merged last spring, Sprouts officials decided that the Borders location was a much better option than the mall, where questions continued to swirl. (All of the Sunflower stores are being renamed Sprouts as a result of the merger.)
Sprouts officials say they hope they can attract some of the mainstream grocery stores’ traffic, but also capture customers who are driving to Boulder to shop at Alfalfa’s or Whole Foods. Sprouts also has two locations in Boulder as well as one in Lafayette.
“We feel like they’re going to come to us instead of going to Boulder,” Falconer says.
“Hopefully we’ll save them the trip,” adds Sanders.
Sprouts emphasizes high-quality produce at lower prices than their competitors, Falconer says, adding that the store will match any price set by other grocers.
King Soopers spokesperson Kelli McGannon told BW that company officials don’t comment on their competition, and declined to say whether the arrival of Sprouts would negatively affect King Soopers’ market share in Longmont.
“We know customers have a choice on where they shop,” she says. “We work hard every day to earn our customers’ business, and new competition doesn’t change that. We’re still going to have to work hard to earn their business.”
“It’s beneficial to any community to see businesses supporting healthy eating habits, especially organic products,” added Nancy Flynn, director of marketing for Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage. “Longmont has been an excellent location for us, and we expect that will continue. Our stores remain successful in areas where a variety of options are available. Shoppers will always compare prices, quality and availability and make their selections accordingly.”