Natural Grocers to open

'Kalispell is going to be a very cool area for us'

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From right, Jacy Jones, the vitamin manager, Benjamin Lehman and Debby Breckon carefully stock and arrange items on shelves at the Natural Grocers store in Kalispell.

After overhauling the former Borders bookstore, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage opens the doors to its new Kalispell store on Tuesday with a grand opening that runs through Sunday.

The store and its 20 to 25 employees welcome Kalispell shoppers to a publicly traded but family-run health foods chain that started with one store in Colorado and has grown to open 66 stores in that state and 12 others.

Kalispell is the company’s fourth store in Montana. It follows openings in Billings, Helena and Missoula.

The stores are known for selling certified organic foods and all-natural dietary supplements, body care, pet care and household products.

They also are known for the things they won’t sell.

That latter list — “What we won’t sell and why” — includes foods with artificial flavors, colors or preservatives or hydrogenated oils and foods grown with antibiotics, growth hormones or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

“We walk the walk when we say we want to help people make healthy choices,” said Nancy Flynn, marketing director for Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage.

“Everybody should be able to eat healthy. That’s been our premise since day one.”

Like all Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage stores, the Kalispell store has a nutritional health coach to offer health and wellness seminars, classes and one-on-one customer counseling.

The store also has a demonstration kitchen and a community room with free wireless Internet, tea and coffee.

“We try hard to connect with our customers,” Flynn said.

“One of our cornerstones is nutrition education. There are so many great foods out there that people don’t try because they’re not sure how to fix it or prepare it. Our produce staff loves to talk about what tastes great and what puts more color and nutrition on your plate.”

The company sells some of its products in bulk and also tries to offer local products. It has a product-submission form on its website.

“We would love to hear from any people with local products they would like us to carry. We are always searching for local products and are eager to consider any, especially with organic growers,” Flynn said.

This grand opening includes door prizes, cooking demonstrations, food samples and raffles for everything from gift cards to buffalo meat cuts, bicycles and electronics.

Store employees also will hand out free reusable bags for customers.

“We don’t offer plastic or paper bags, so people can take advantage of one of our free heavy-duty reusable bags,” Flynn said.

“Then every time they shop with their own bags from day one on we will make a [five cent] donation to the local food bank, paid out quarterly.”

The new Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is located in the Mountain View Plaza shopping center on U.S. 93.

Store hours are 8:56 a.m. to 8:04 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9:56 a.m. to 7:06 p.m. Sunday.

The message behind those unusual hours is that people are welcome to come shop for healthy foods whether they’re running a few minutes early or a few minutes late, Flynn said.

“If we see people at the door we go unlock it so that they can come in. We appreciate our customers and we want them to feel that appreciation.”

Montana has been a great market for Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage to expand into, Flynn said.

“Montana has really been wonderful, a tremendously welcoming market,” she said. “Kalispell is going to be a very cool area for us.”

Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at tlotshaw@dailyinterlake.com.

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