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Grocery showdown: SmartCo Foods

SmartCo Foods, a new grocery store concept designed by its California parent specifically for Colorado, opened its first store in late June -- the same day Sunflower Farmer's Market opened its 10th store in Colorado. SmartCo Foods brings a new twist to the existing market, and people wanted to see what it was all about.

The store opened at 6 a.m. with a crowd of around 450 people waiting. The first people in line had arrived around midnight the night before, waiting to get the free groceries promised to the first customers.

I arrived at the store around 11 a.m. and couldn't find a parking space. Once I found a spot, I made my way into the 57,000-square-foot store. There was little walking room because space was taken up by shopping carts, busy shoppers and lots of staff.

I immediately felt like I was in a Costco-grocery store hybrid. Produce took up one corner of the store, with warehouse products at the opposite end. Every aisle was full of different items, and I felt overwhelmed by all the choices.

The most interesting part of this store was how bulk items were mixed in with regular buys. Next to a wheel of cheese normally found in a grocery store was a wheel almost triple the size - for parties of business events, said Randall Oliver, spokesman for the store.

Price tags also caught my eye, with lower numbers on them than I have seen at most stores. Value is definitely emphasized the most in SmartCo. Bananas were 33 cents a pound, and a whole chicken was 59 cents a pound. And these were not just opening day prices.

The store featured a wall dedicated to value pricing, dubbed "the wall of value." The items featured there will change about every week, Oliver said. Next to the wall of value are the "mile high savings section" and the "truckloads of savings" area. Both feature larger items that will sell until supplies are exhausted, and then new items will replace them.

There are national and economy brands throughout the store, so each shopper can find what they are looking for.

"This store provides a one-stop shop for everything you need," Oliver said.

My recommendation on when to shop at SmartCo? Go if you need a store that combines Costco, King Soopers and a produce shop with a focus on low prices - and if you have some time. The store has a lot of great products, at good prices, but you can't just pop in and out.

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Randi Abels

Randi Abels is a ColoradoBiz intern.

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