Archive for Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Natural Grocers to open in Lawrence on 23rd Street and Naismith Drive

Natural Grocers is planning to build a 14,000-square-foot store at 23rd Street and Naismith Drive, where this Burger King is located.

Natural Grocers is planning to build a 14,000-square-foot store at 23rd Street and Naismith Drive, where this Burger King is located.

May 10, 2011


Call it healthy competition.

On the street

How often do you buy organic groceries?

Never. I buy groceries like once a month and I don’t ever buy organic. I eat bologna sandwiches.

More responses

Colorado-based Natural Grocers has filed plans to enter the city’s grocery market with a full-line store at 23rd Street and Naismith Drive on a site now occupied by Burger King.

“If you are familiar with Whole Foods, a Natural Grocers could go in front of a Whole Foods store and beat them on prices,” said Mark McPherson, developer of the project. “They carry everything a Whole Foods store does but at better prices.”

The company will raze the Burger King building in June, and plans call for a 13,000-square-foot grocery store to be open by mid-November.

The store will be the company’s first in Kansas. The family-owned company has about 40 stores, with most in Colorado and a few in Texas, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The company has undertaken an expansion plan into the Midwest and expects to have 50 stores by the end of the year.

“College communities do really well for us,” said Nancy Flynn, director of marketing for the company. “There is a certain climate in a college community and a lot of inquisitive minds that are focused on health and wellness.”

About half of the store will be devoted to vitamins and health supplements, Flynn said. But the other half will have a produce section that will sell only certified organic products. The store will feature a large dairy section and will carry other grocery items.

Flynn said the store also will offer classes to help customers better understand foods and diets, and the store will be staffed by a nutritional health coach.

“We really cater to specialty diets, gluten-free, non-GMO (genetically modified organisms),” Flynn said. “We feel like we’re the label-readers in the market.”

They won’t be alone in the Lawrence market. The natural foods market has been a growing part of the local grocery industry. Both Dillons and Hy-Vee have bolstered their organic sections with recent remodels, and the city has a longtime natural foods retailer in The Merc.

“It is definitely a national trend,” said Rita York, general manager for The Merc, which operates a 19,000-square-foot store at 901 Iowa. “People are more interested in eating healthy and definitely eating local. I think it is good that it is becoming more mainstream. We don’t see this as a threat.”

McPherson, who owns the site at 23rd and Naismith, said Burger King will continue to operate at the location until June 11. Burger King had announced plans to build a new restaurant in the Bauer Farms development near Free State High at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. An update on those plans weren’t immediately available Monday.

Flynn said the Natural Grocers store likely would employ 15 people initially, but could grow to 50 as the store gains traction in the market.


WSstudent 6 years, 7 months ago

To be fair, Wild Oats failed, you know, nationally. So, not quite the same thing.

pace 6 years, 7 months ago

I dream of a grocery store opening in the mall across from the turnpike in North Lawrence.

Lindalou 6 years, 7 months ago

yeah, what's up w/ that?? who's payin the rent on all that cement goin to waste..

Tim Quest 6 years, 7 months ago

I will skip going due to the awful food.

Keith 6 years, 7 months ago

Apparently the 'New Urbanism' we were promised on the site means replicating the worst of 23rd st.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 7 months ago

I hope they have better way in and out. People doing a left turn on 23ed into Burger King was a major problem.

jasonthesane 6 years, 7 months ago

Agreed, they should close the 23rd street driveway and only maintain the one from Naismith. Safer for everybody.

Scott Tichenor 6 years, 7 months ago

I'll give them 18 months. Accessing that side of the street and then exiting is almost impossible unless you only wish to enter from the east and exit to the west. Otherwise, playing the game of waiting for lights on 23rd is a deal killer.

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 7 months ago

Gotta admit, there is a lot of foot traffic there, and it's close to a bus stop. It may be a go.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 7 months ago

It seems to me that the old Blockbuster building would be a better location. That building might not have to be razed while access from 23rd St, is easier. But hey, it's their money.

auntmimi210 6 years, 7 months ago

That is sooo true. Thanks for the laugh!!

Mike Hatch 6 years, 7 months ago

And, it will take them 15 minutes to make it.

Kookamooka 6 years, 7 months ago

There is a high density of students and lower income multifamily in that area. I always see people walking with grocery sacks along 23rd. Wasn't there some talk of reconfiguring 23rd street so it wasn't so dangerous to pull in and out of? Is this still under consideration? If so...they should find out about it and think about changing their building.

LadyJ 6 years, 7 months ago

If they truely do the label reading so you don't have to check every single item for food a allergy, that would be a great time saver. If I'm shopping for food for my daughter, who is allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, and tomatoes, reading labels takes forever and then sometimes I still miss one.

Clickker 6 years, 7 months ago

The King is gonna have a shiny new crown at about 6th and Wak!!!!!

woodscolt 6 years, 7 months ago

To many vitamins and to small of a store to have much affect bringing the merc back to earth. Maybe next time.

Kirk Larson 6 years, 7 months ago

I don't give them very long. Loyalty to the Merc is too high and the Merc, being member owned has a motivation to keep prices down. Also, bad access to the location is probably why Burger King couldn't make it. Won't get any better.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Merc prices are pretty high.

If the local NG store has prices similar to their online ones, they'll be real competition, and possibly cheaper.

Lisa Rasor 6 years, 7 months ago

The Merc pays a living wage to its employees, which I'm happy to support by paying slightly higher prices. Does NG pay a living wage? Doubtful.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

That's your prerogative.

I was just responding to the comment that the Merc has a motivation to keep prices down.

Apparently they have the opposite motivation.

Andrew Reeves 6 years, 7 months ago

Uhhhhhhh, no they don't. I've had close friends that worked there, and the pay isn't much different than anywhere else.

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

Up to a point those type of places don't compete on price anyways. The Merc will still get alot of business as it is more convenient to travel there, but NG will probably pick up some of the business from people who live near there.

The big eyebrow raiser for me is the fact that they're right across from a Dillons. Maybe they're hoping to pick up grocery customers from people who stop at Dillons for 80% of their shopping and then pick up 20% from NG, but I might be worried about that location.

sourpuss 6 years, 7 months ago

Couldn't make it? They've been there for at least 35 years! How is that not "making it"?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

There's also a quarterly 10% discount on one shopping trip (no limit on the size of that purchase,) and an annual patronage rebate based on overall purchases. Anyone who shops there on any regular basis and takes advantage of these could easily recoup their membership fee in the first year, especially if you have a family.

They also regularly have discounts available to members on varying select items. And like any grocery, it's necessary to take advantage of sale items to stretch your budget.

For those who are interested in buying in bulk (primarily families) you might also google the New Boston Coop, which is a buying club here in Lawrence that buys from UNFI (the main distributor for the Merc and Whole Foods, and likely this new store) as well as some local producers.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

Whether they succeed depends on how long they don't mind losing money-- lots of it. I'd guess it'll take them at least two years to get to a break-even point, assuming they get there at all.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

A bread vendor said yesterday this Burger King location was hot and now will be moving to slower sales. Described the move as dumb......

Plus a higher sales tax venue.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 7 months ago

They aren't local, so you can't shop there.

pea 6 years, 7 months ago

Ban consumer1. No benefit of the doubt for obnoxious multiple posts!

That IS a lot of vitamins though. Weird.

When I go to BK (once every 6 months) I think that surely this time it will go smoothly. Alas, it is a terrible experience every time.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Is this in the new CID area?

If so, I won't shop there, which would be unfortunate, as it would be much more convenient for me than the Merc.

gudpoynt 6 years, 7 months ago

Q: What's the opposite of substance? A: a hole.

rtwngr 6 years, 7 months ago

Then why not make your statement, consumer1, and then defend it. The way in which you posted does not offer any credibility to your position. (Not that that is a requirement to post given the company we keep.) You must admit that you could have made your point with twenty five percent less "Protest, protest, protest"!

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Is this proposal requiring any variances, etc. from the city, or is it simply following the existing zoning regulations?

pizzapete 6 years, 7 months ago

Consumer, when was the last time anyone ever protested a commercial development on 23rd street? And the roundabout doesn't count.

And why the heck do you care what they pay? Are you looking for work?

coderob 6 years, 7 months ago

At least they're not building out in West Lawrence, causing more sprawl.

kernal 6 years, 7 months ago

Can't remember the last time I saw a "hippie" in the Merc, except for those few with wide girths who are making an effort to change their eating habits.

More and more of the Merc patrons are from West Lawrence these days.

gudpoynt 6 years, 7 months ago

it takes a deep mind to stereotype so. The expanse of your intellect must be staggering.

coderob 6 years, 7 months ago

I wish this were a Trader Joe's, though they would probably play nice and locate closer to Mass.

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm holding out for 4 buck chuck at Trader Joe's in KCMO. Now that is a store to open in Lawrence.

d_prowess 6 years, 7 months ago

The new/soon-to-be location in the Kansas suburbs of KC got special permission to have wine and beer.

keepingfingerscrossed 6 years, 7 months ago

If burger king don't start getting the food hot at lunch then they should keep the doors close. The burger king in north Lawrence is BAD you can never find anyone in side the store, all the workers are out back of the store smoking.

Richard Payton 6 years, 7 months ago

Being located next to Dillons may help with the location. The traffic count for people that shop at Dillons on 23rd is huge. Also, if an item was sold out at Dillons or at this new grocery store that shopper might likely go to the nearest other grocery store.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

I think the average Dillon's shopper would more likely head down the street to Checker's.

lawrencenerd 6 years, 7 months ago

Funny, I thought he was saying "flag all my spam comments and hope I get banned."

kernal 6 years, 7 months ago

The on thing I don't like about the Merc and this new store coming in, is the large vitamin and "health supplement" departments. Many of those so called supplements can be had through a healthy diet, but then that would be too easy.

I fully recognize that some people have problems absorbing certain nutrients and need supplements but at least twenty percent of what is on the shelves in the "health department" is bs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

At least the Merc doesn't take up half the store with them-- 10%, maybe.

But you're right, the evidence of the effectiveness of many of these supplements is scant. Still, if that's what your customers want, that's what you stock. (they sell Coca-Cola, too.)

overthemoon 6 years, 7 months ago

Yep...funny how when the free market works just fine, those that will 'd**n them liberals are all over it and would prefer that the Merc be just like Dillons or Aldi's or some store whose profits don't stay in lawrence.

kernal 6 years, 7 months ago

Too much caffeine this morning, consumer1?

richfree 6 years, 7 months ago

Where will the LHS kiddos go for lunch now ??

Joe Hyde 6 years, 7 months ago

Increasing the number of close-to-farm market outlets for our local certified organic food growers is a good thing. I hope this new business does well!

Lisa Rasor 6 years, 7 months ago

I hope NG will sell locally grown food, too, but "certified organic" does not necessarily mean "local." Since they are a bigger corporate chain, and bigger profits are their goal, I have doubts about their commitment to local growers. It would be much cheaper for them to import their organics from elsewhere, since fuel costs are subsidized by us, the taxpayers.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

If true, this is part of the problem, and should be changed.

It makes no sense to pay less for items which have been transported long distances.

lawrencenerd 6 years, 7 months ago

A huge amount of certified organic food sold in the US isn't even produced in this country. Lots of it actually comes from china.

6 years, 7 months ago

If you're interested in close-to-farm produce, you should check out Rolling Prairie CSA We just joined this year and are loving it.

Edwin Rothrock 6 years, 7 months ago

Chad, Checkers has also recently added an expanded Natural Foods section. Low prices, locally owned, a big charitable contributor through the Lawrence GiveBack program - what's not to like?

overthemoon 6 years, 7 months ago

SOME low prices. I find some items to be much more expensive at Checkers.

EJ Mulligan 6 years, 7 months ago

Agreed. Checkers produce is one of Lawrence's best-kept secrets. They have as much local and organic as the Merc -- with lower prices and less pretention.

Jean Robart 6 years, 5 months ago

but the quality of the produce I have looked at at Checkers is crummy. Their prices are too high for me. I asked the grocery manager at Checkers about shelf stable milk--after having been sent there by the Merc---and had to explqain to him what shelf stable milk is! Fortunately I found it in another store in town.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

If they aren't getting any tax abatements, then there will be no requirement for their doing so.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

I would bet that most of the grocery items they sell will come from UNFI

This is THE natural foods distributor in this country. They supply Whole Foods and the Merc, and many other coops, and they used to supply Hy-Vee, as well.

BigPrune 6 years, 7 months ago

Doesn't Lawrence have too many grocery stores?

How can our stagnated poor population support so many places that sell food?

Someone needs to do a cost / benefit analysis.

Surely, the City will make them remove the entrance on 23rd Street. After all, this IS Lawrence, KS. It will force people to walk instead of drive. Very utopian. How about a right in, right out on Naismith? you're talking.

Lawrence is special and has special needs for our special people.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

"About half of the store will be devoted to vitamins and health supplements, Flynn said."

From what I have read, I am not convinced that taking vitamin supplements actually does any good. As someone already said, eating healthy foods is much better.

But this is not just benign. Many supplements can be dangerous, especially since they are not carefully regulated and you have no idea what you are getting. Consumer's Reports has done some extensive testing and found the percentages of many supplements to be varied and unreliable. You cannot depend on the label. Also certain supplements can interact badly with some medications. Do your research before you take anything---I would say check with your doctor, but I have found that they don't necessarily know what they're talking about either.

Some years ago, St. John's Wort was all the rage for depression. It can actually be quite dangerous. Even if you grow your own, you don't know what you're getting. A plant in one part of your garden may have a completely different percentage of the active ingredients than one grown in another part. That goes for all herbs, not just St. John's Wort, but it is a particularly dangerous one.

The fact that half their store is vitamins and health supplements makes me very suspicious. Either they know the facts and don't care---they just want to take your money and this is a very lucrative industry---or they're ignorant.

Herbs are like anything else---eat in moderation.

Jayhawks1985 6 years, 7 months ago

I live in a town with a NG and I like it alot. All we had before were the average health food stores including their high prices. NG do have organic fruits and vegetables but not a big selection and the prices are high on these items like everywhere else.
They do have a large variety of supplements and especially soaps, shampoos etc. Also, the prices on alot of these things are $2 and $3 cheaper than the health food stores. It's more like a glorified health food store than anything and they do have good sales. If your into health food products they can save you some money.

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 7 months ago

23rd street needed a" Island" from Mass all the way down to Iowa with turn lanes at intersections only, not cutting across traffic and blocking off oncoming traffic, I know its to late for that ,should have been done 20-30 years ago, even better yet should have put in frontage roads way back when----

NaturalGrocers 6 years, 7 months ago

Hi Everyone! We just created our profile for LJ to give you a peek at who we are and what you can expect from our new store. (By the way, your traffic comments are much appreciated and have been forwarded to our planning and construction staff.) We have a very robust web site with in-depth information on our product standards and our business principles. Please take a look and, of course, send us your feedback. After nearly 60 years in business, we know we can't always please everyone -- but we still try.

Here are a couple of "Dijaknows:" -- Yes, we pay a living wage, offer great benefits, and try to keep work in balance with our personal lives. -- We have strict product ingredient standards that keep the junk food off our shelves. We like to remind folks that we read the labels, so they don't have to. -- Our headstrong customers still read the labels, because for many of them the quality and contents of their food is very very important. In this way, our customers have set our standards high over years of giving critical feedback. -- None of our revenue is from preparing food for our customers. We focus on single ingredient whole foods and minimally processed foods so our customers can control the ingredients and portions of their diet. -- Every decision we make starts with the goal of keeping overhead costs low. We believe it's not health food if you can't afford to buy it. -- Food (and related dietary supplements) are the first step to staying healthy. We provide clean safe food, plus extensive free educational resources so every customer can gain the knowledge they need to make the right decisions to support their health and well-being.

Cheers, we look forward to getting to know you!

Lisa Rasor 6 years, 7 months ago

Good information to have, NG. Thanks for posting.

Here are some other questions to answer: Where do you get your products? Do you buy from local sources? Will your produce and dairy come from local producers? Will your personal care products come from local producers?

Thanks in advance.

NaturalGrocers 6 years, 5 months ago

Catiefan: Please take a look at our web site for info on how we source local products and local organic produce here:
Local folks with products can submit them for review and approval online here:
As we open stores in communities outside of our traditional areas, we hired a full time person specifically to identify and work with local sources, including all of the categories you mentioned.

Jafs: we do not normally participate in special taxing schemes. We believe a business best serves the community when its stands on its own two feet, not on its customers' toes. Will triple check on this and let you know.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Thank you.

If you're going to be using the new CID extra 1% tax, I hope you will post that information where it can be easily seen by anybody before they shop there.

For what it's worth, I'm opposed to that sort of tax, so if you do use it, I will almost undoubtedly not shop there.

On the other hand, if you're not going to use it, please let us know - the store is conveniently located for me, and I shop somewhat regularly at the Merc.

d_prowess 6 years, 7 months ago

I thought the CID tax was only for those specially designated development areas (i.e. the area in front of FS High School). This location wouldn't fall into one of those areas then, right?

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

My understanding is that that part of 23rd St. where Yokohama, Burger King, etc. is also slated to be a new CID area.

Chad, am I right?

Keith 6 years, 7 months ago

No, you are thinking of the space by Hobby Lobby and across the street from Hobby Lobby.

Kramku 6 years, 7 months ago

There will not be a CID request associated with this development. Natural Grocers will have the same sales tax as all other non-CID projects in the City of Lawrence.

pizzapete 6 years, 7 months ago

That sounds great, I look forward to checking out the new store.

revellsa 6 years, 7 months ago

They failed to mention that Checkers has also introduced a natural foods section which is growing and isn't bad. I feel slighted.

jonas_opines 6 years, 7 months ago

88 comments? Guess Sir Spamalot is back in action.

jonas_opines 6 years, 7 months ago

Hmmm, none of these comments were showing up the first time.

Gene Wallace 6 years, 7 months ago

Burger King's commercials are what are doing the "King" in. They attack their competition, use veiled potty humor and obscenity and have an extremely creepy mascot. No matter what you may think of Micky D's food, their commercials are classy. Good-Bye Burger King. We will not miss you.

Betty Bartholomew 6 years, 7 months ago

Is there nowhere else in town BK could move to? We already have three burger places at 6th & Wak - A&W, McD's, and Smashburger. We don't need another one.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

Exactly who are you attempting to insult with this post?

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