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Crowds gather, and excitement abounds for new health food location.

Natural Grocers – a nation-wide organic food chain – opened a new store on Wednesday morning, at the corner of 2nd and F street in Downtown Salida. A crowd gathered well before the 8:30am ribbon cutting ceremony and official opening of the long-awaited store.The line of people hummed with anticipation, and wound from the front doors of Natural Grocers, around the corner at F street, and ended near the intersection of 3rd and F.

Prior to the new store location in Salida, Chaffee County patrons had to travel to Colorado Springs or Silverthorne to shop at Natural Grocers to find what the store refers to as “outstanding prices and wide selection” that makes the chain so popular.

Mayor of Salida PT Wood said he is optimistic for the future of Natural Grocers in Chaffee County. His optimism he says, is not only due to the renowned reputation of Natural Grocers as an adequately priced supplier of organic, natural foods, but also for the economic impact the store brings to the city of Salida itself.

“Clearly, its struck a nerve. Folks are excited about the store here, they are excited to shop here. What it does for the city is it fills a large retail space. Its been a long, long time since this space [the new Natural Grocers’ store location] has generated sales tax for the city. For us that’s a big deal.”

Eric Wilson, the store manager for Natural Grocers Salida location, emphasized the product and commitment Natural Grocers brings to the Salida community.

“We’re excited about this – its one of our founding principles to bring good, healthy, quality food at an affordable price,” said Wilson. “[our goal] is to be entrenched in the community, and that’s another of our five founding principles as a company. As soon as I found out this store was being built, I wanted to be here.”

The few hundred individuals who waited in line for the grand opening appear to be a testament to the commitment to, and need for, affordable organic food in Salida and the Chaffee County area. While the need appears real, managment understands the store’s foot print is small.

“This is, I believe, the second-smallest community Natural Grocers has gone into, but you wouldn’t know that today,” Wilson said, referencing the impressive turnout for the opening.

Wilson said that not only does Natural Grocers offer a quality product for a quality price, but the new establishment has also created jobs for local workers. Every employee Mr. Wilson hired is a resident of the Salida area.

Mike Croghan, who recently moved to Salida from the Denver area, believes Natural Grocers will be a good fit for the County.

“I’ve been shopping with them (Natural Grocers) for over 30 years.” said Croghan. “I think it’s a great store. It’s all organic and fits the culture in Salida. Their store philosophy has always been a positive one.”

The excitement for Natural Grocers is evident. Still, there are some concerns with the opening of a national chain like Natural Grocers in such a small town.

“Some people might think its going to put all the local businesses out, and some of them will be impacted I’m sure,” said Croghan.

Patrons like Croghan, who have shopped at Natural Grocers for years, are happy to have the chain so close to home. Wilson said Natural Grocers is just as thrilled to be immersed in a city where they can build relationships and work toward enhancing the community as a whole. He defined the purpose of Natural Grocers as much more than a business.

Natural Grocers offers an extensive outreach program which includes free nutritional health coaching, and an education space that is open to the public where community members can sit, meet, and have lunch without the pressure to purchase something from the store.

Wilson summarized the mission of Salida’s Natural Grocers, assuring those who may question the quality of commitment being made by a large company to a small town like Salida.

“We are focused on being a part of the community,” stated Wilson, “on being a part of healthy living, and helping the community live better.”