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Natural Grocers, a Colorado-based chain, will open a store at 1235 N.W. Ninth St. It is scheduled to open Dec. 17. (Jesse Skoubo | Corvallis Gazette-Times)

Colorado retailer plans to open Ninth Street store Dec. 17

A rapidly expanding Colorado chain plans to open a natural foods store in Corvallis by the middle of this month.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is on track to start operating Dec. 17 in the former Grocery Outlet space at 1235 N.W. Ninth St. in the Northgate Shopping Center, according to Nancy Flynn, the company’s marketing director.

It will be the fifth Oregon location and the 76th store overall for the company, which is based in the Denver suburb of Lakewood and has a presence in 13 states, mainly in the West.

Natural Grocers has opened half a dozen new stores since June, has two scheduled to open this month (counting Corvallis) and intends to open nine more in the first half of 2014, including locations in Gresham and Vancouver, Wash.

“We’re not growing huge, but we are growing pretty fast,” Flynn said.

Founded in 1955 by Margaret and Philip Isely as Vitamin Cottage, the company changed its name about nine years ago. It went public last year but is still run by the Isely family.

Natural Grocers stocks only organic and natural foods, with no artificial ingredients, Flynn said. The inventory includes meats, produce, frozen and bulk foods, personal care and pet products, with about 35 percent of floor space set aside for nutritional supplements.

The company started out with a focus on nutritional education, Flynn said, and maintains that tradition by keeping a health coach on the staff of each store and offering free nutrition classes.

The 18,000-square-foot Corvallis store will be on the large end for Natural Grocers, which usually has a footprint of 15,000 to 18,000 square feet, Flynn said. It will have a community room where customers can sip free coffee or tea and surf the Net on the free Wi-Fi service. It will also have a demonstration kitchen and meeting space available for free to nonprofits and for rent to other organizations.

Following the “open early, close late” policy established by Margaret Isely, the store will be open from 8:56 a.m. to 8:04 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 9:56 a.m. to 6:06 p.m. Sundays.

Flynn said the Corvallis store will start out with 20 to 25 employees and “grow from there,” ultimately hiring as many as 50 workers, depending on sales volume and other factors.

It also will be in the market for local produce and other products that meet the company’s standards.

“We love local products,” Flynn said. “That’s the strength of the community, and that’s one of the ways we can support the economy of the local community.”

Northgate Shopping Center, which also houses Campbell’s Cleaners and The Arc resale store, was purchased a few months ago by Leadership Circle LLC, a Montrose, Colo., real estate development firm that has a longstanding business relationship with Natural Grocers.

“We’ve done about 18 locations for them,” said Pete Neumann, the company’s finance director.

Contractors for the company have been remodeling the former Grocery Outlet space to suit the needs of Natural Grocers as well as updating the shopping center’s eastern facade to give it more of a presence on Ninth Street. The sidewalk on the Ninth Street frontage has been set back 12 feet from the road to accommodate current zoning standards, and additional landscaping is being done.

Leadership Circle also acquired the former service station adjoining the center at Ninth and Beca and demolished the building to create a new loading area for the center.

“We needed the gas station site to get our delivery trucks in and out of there,” Neumann said.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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