Fast-growing grocer plans Grand Junction store

A Colorado-based chain of grocery stores that’s quickly expanded by selling natural and organic products at competitive prices has announced plans to open an outlet in Grand Junction.

Sunflower Farmers Market expects to open a 28,000 square-foot store in the Rimrock Crossing Shopping Center next fall.

Sage Horner, vice president of merchandising and marketing for Sunflower Farmers Market, said the new store will fill a niche between conventional grocery stores and retailers that sell high-end natural food products. “We just think there’s a neat opportunity for somebody who’s not a conventional grocery store.”

Based in Boulder, Sunflower Farmers Market operates a total of 35 stores in eight states, including 12 locations in Colorado.

The company opened four stores this year and plans to open eight or nine stores in 2012, including locations in Grand Junction and Denver, Horner said.

Sunflower Farmers Market has been looking for the right site in Grand Junction for nearly three years, Horner said, long attracted to the market by the growing population over the past decade as well as a health-conscious lifestyle.

While Sunflower Farmers Market typically opens stores in existing buildings, the company plans to construct a new building in Grand Junction at the southwest corner of Independent Avenue and Bogart Lane.

Horner expects construction to begin in January or February and conclude in September or October.

The store initially will employ 75 to 90 people, he said.

Founded in 2002, Sunflower Farmers Market has rapidly expanded by developing the value segment of the natural and organic foods market, in turn helping customers eat healthy for less, Horner said.

Sunflower Farmers Market focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, Horner said. “Produce is at the center of our store.”

Sunflower Farmers Market strives to offer a minimum of 100 organic produce products on a year-round basis, Horner said. To the greatest extent possible, the company obtains locally grown produce, he added.

In addition, stores sell all-natural meats, wild-caught seafood and fresh-baked breads and other goods. The Grand Junction store will include a delicatessen offering more than 200 varieties of cheese as well as a liquor department selling beers and wines.

The Sunflowers Farmers Market private label line offers more than 700 products, including skin care products, vitamins and supplements.

Along with a wide range of products, Sunflower Farmers Market strives to offer competitive pricing and live up to its motto of “serious food … silly prices,” Horner said.

Sunflower Farmers Market distributes sales fliers on a weekly basis.

Fliers overlap on what the company calls “double ad Wednesdays,” doubling the number of items on sale that day.

Since its founding, Sunflower Farmers Market has maintained a “frugal, no frills” culture and passed on savings to customers, Horner said.

At the same time, the company has continued to expand, even during a recession and subsequent slow recovery. Horner said he’s anxious for the expansion to continue in Grand Junction. “It is exciting to get to a new town and open a new store.”