If you go
What: Alfalfa's Market at the Center Court Village Shopping Center
When: Grand opening is 9 a.m. Friday. Regular store hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Where: 785 E. South Boulder Road, Louisville
A few years ago, Louisville residents hoping to lure Boulder-based Alfalfa's Market to their city mailed the natural grocer hundreds of letters packed with the tiny seeds of the company's namesake plant.
"We got alfalfa seeds all over our desks, but it got the point across," Alfalfa's CEO and chairman Mark Retzloff said this week.
On Friday, Louisville will reap what those letters helped to sow when the "Alfalfa's 2.1" store — as Retzloff refers to it — opens at the northwest corner of South Boulder Road and Centennial Drive.
It will be the first new store for Alfalfa's since Retzloff and his partners resurrected the brand in 2011 at its original Boulder location on the corner of Broadway and Arapahoe Avenue following a long hiatus after the first 11 Alfalfa's locations were acquired by Wild Oats Markets in 1996.
The 28,000-square-foot Louisville store — which includes an estimated 19,000 square feet of retail space — will employ 135 full- and part-time employees. It is the anchor of the Center Court Village development, replacing the vacant parking lot and closed-down Safeway store that long occupied the corner.
Opening day begins at 9 a.m. Friday.
"Louisville is a great community. It's continuing to grow," Retzloff said Tuesday as he walked through the soon-to-open grocery store. "We're excited to be here."
The store is part of growing number of such businesses taking root in Boulder County outside the longtime market hotbed of Boulder.
Including the Alfalfa's, there are now eight naturally focused grocery stores operating in Longmont, Niwot, Lafayette, Superior and Louisville. And another is on the way, with Whole Foods signing on as a major tenant planned for the redevelopment of Longmont's former Twin Peaks Mall.
The Alfalfa's opening is also indicative of a larger national trend, according to experts including Carlotta Mast, senior director of content and insights at Boulder-based New Hope Natural Media.
"This proliferation of natural and specialty grocers is being fueled by the overall growth of the natural, organic and healthy products market in general — and represents growing mainstream interest in healthier products," Mast wrote in an email.
Mast cited statistics from the Nutrition Business Journal showing that in 2013, the natural, organic and healthy products market grew 9 percent in the U.S., making it a $153 billion business. The journal projects the market to grow another 64 percent, up to $252 billion a year, by 2019, Mast said.
"Boulder is home to some of the nation's best natural products retailers," she said. "These companies have fine-tuned their approach to serving a health-conscious community such as Boulder over the years and are now taking this learning to other communities."
Aaron DeJong, Louisville's economic development director, said a natural grocer was "a missing link" in the city's retail offerings. Neighboring Lafayette is home to both a Sprouts Farmers Market and a Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, and Superior has a Whole Foods location just off U.S. 36.
"Residents were traveling further distances to get these sorts of products," DeJong said. "So having this in our community for our residents was certainly an important thing. It was important for our fiscal health to keep food purchases that residents make in town."
Louisville did provide Alfalfa's with some incentives to come to town, including a sales tax rebate agreement capped at $850,000, DeJong said. The city also agreed to rebate building permit fees and construction use taxes for the project and provided a $150,000 grant for construction of a community room on the second floor of the store that will serve Louisville's space-strapped nonprofits, among other groups.
Among the green building practices, zero-waste efforts and many other features of the Louisville store, one thing Retzloff proudly touts is Alfalfa's commitment to locally sourced produce, meat and other products it sells.
The company, which is 90 percent owned by Colorado shareholders, will be buying products from more than 240 companies that are headquartered or produce their products in Colorado, Retzloff said.
All of the store's signature coffee is roasted by Boulder-based Ozo Coffee. All of the organic gelato that will be sold at the store's juice bar is from Boulder Ice Cream. Even the decor features pictures of Boulder County farmers and bee keepers.
"Certainly there is a huge movement to local, and local really feeds into this market," said Daniel Fabricant, CEO of the Natural Products Association. "Folks feel like they are doing something good if they buy local."
Fabricant also sees a bright future for natural grocers and the natural products industry as a whole.
"I think it's been mainstream for a while now, but I think what's really happening is it's almost getting to the point where it's taking over the mainstream," he said. "You're now seeing the younger generation with more disposable income as they advance in their careers. They've been living under the concept of doing things more naturally, getting away from synthetics and getting away from things that could damage the environment."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or email@example.com.