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Natural Grocers has arrived in Central Park. The grocer is hosting a grand opening this weekend

The new Natural Grocers in Central Park. Dec. 29, 2022.

“Come by and see what we’re sourcing locally and make us your neighborhood store.”

Natural Grocers has finally arrived in Central Park.

The Lakewood-based organic grocer has opened its 44th Colorado store at 3165 N. Central Park Blvd., near the old air traffic control tower on a two-acre site at the northwest corner of Central Park and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards.

It’s a location the company’s been eyeing and researching for about 10 years.

“That area is quite different even from 10 years ago or five years ago,” said Katie Macarelli, a Natural Grocers spokesperson. “As the neighborhood started evolving, we wanted to see how the construction in the area and nearby areas went. We always look at a couple of different [factors],but primarily it’s how we can best serve this community. And we feel that this community is definitely receptive to all of the things we have to offer.”

Macarelli said the store will offer healthy eating and lifestyle classes like as “How to elevate your tailgate” and “21 Days to a Healthier You: Eat for Your Health (& the Planet’s Health).”

Although the grocer has actively thought of opening in this particular location, Macarelli said the company hesitated opening a store in an area that wasn’t necessarily in need of a grocer. In the last two years, Natural Grocers has opened two stores in areas that lacked food retailer options, the most recent in Brighton and one in Green Valley Ranch.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, an area is considered a food desert when at least 500 people, or 33% of the area population, lives more than one mile away from a supermarket or large grocery store.

The northern part of Central Park bordering Montbello fits that bill, but in the southern portion where this Natural Grocers lies, there’s a Sprouts, Sam’s Club and Walmart.

Macarelli said the grocer is constantly looking for new places to build, especially if those locations are in need.

“We are looking in food deserts and those gaps of where we could be,” Macarelli said. “That’s a big concern of ours and I would say providing affordable good food for people is one of our primary goals. It shouldn’t cost a ton to eat healthy and we really believe in that. We’re trying to grow strategically and successfully but again it’s something we’re constantly looking at.”

The new store is a part of the Control Tower project, which is one of three new mixed-use developments. Near the grocer are new affordable apartments and FlyteCo Brewing, an aviation-themed brewery that opened in the old Punch Bowl Social location.

Construction on the store began in 2021 and the store was originally set to open in the fall of 2022, but supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, along with permitting delays, deterred the project.

Macarelli said the permitting delay was due to the store’s new method of refrigeration. The Central Park store is the second Natural Grocer to utilize the new carbon dioxide technology, which is different from the usual hydrofluorocarbon-based systems. Those systems tend to have a more harmful impact on the atmosphere. The upfront cost of the CO2 system is more expensive and installation is complex, but in the long run it’s cost-efficient and environmentally friendly.

The store is open now, but Natural Grocers will host a grand opening event Saturday, Jan. 7.

The first 150 customers in line will receive a free Natural Grocers mystery gift card worth anywhere between $5 and $500. More prizes will be given inside the store.

Macarelli said typically grand openings are during the week but, by having it on Saturday and the first weekend of the new year, Natural Grocers is hoping families come out and celebrate.

If you’re not into crowds, Macarelli said the sweepstakes opportunities will be around for about two weeks.

“We’re your neighborhood grocery store. That’s what we want to be known for,” Macarelli said. “Come by and see what we’re sourcing locally and make us your neighborhood store.”