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Grocery showdown: Sunflower Farmer’s Market

A new Sunflower Farmer's Market opened in late June at Arapahoe Road and Yosemite Street -- the same day that SmartCo Foods opened its doors for the first time. Although the two shared the opening day date, that's pretty much all they have in common.

About 500 people arrived for the store's 7 a.m. opening, spokeswoman Karen Gavender said. The store is the 10th in Colorado to open, 30th in the nation. Sunflower Farmer's Market operates in six states and plans to add California, said Chris Sherrell, Sunflower's president and chief operations officer.

On my first trip to Sunflower, I was immediately struck by the skylights, high ceilings, and low shelves, which gave the store an open feel. Signs were hung up high, labeling each section of food clearly. I easily identified the areas of the store that contained grouped items - the bakery, deli, fresh fish, meats, fruits and veggies, natural living products and dairy.

With 28,000 square feet of space, it was easy to move through the aisles and find what I was looking for. the aisles The store wasn't packed with people when I arrived, but I was told that it had been very busy earlier in the morning. Even when it is busy, I can't imagine the store being overwhelming.

Sherrell hopes to have eight to 12 new stores in Colorado over the next three to five years, and is excited about the progress of the store. "With 10 stores in six years, over 1,000 employees, and 150 million in sales, we are experiencing a lot of success," he said.

When asked about the competition from SmartCo Foods, Sherrell was confident in the continuing support from shoppers that Sunflower has gained through the years.

"When you are a natural food shopper, it's a lifestyle," he said. "You like the feel, the customer service, the classes, the education piece of it. The benefit of this store is we have a customer base, a name, and a following."

Sunflower Farmer's Market has cut prices on more than 5,000 products and offers 100 to 200 new items each year, Sherrill said.

"Value proposition with a healthy lifestyle is in right now," he said.

After seeing both Sunflower and SmartCo Foods on their opening days, it seems difficult to compare the two. I think that Sunflower has great prices for the quality of items that they carry, and I would go to this store not only to buy my organics and vitamins, but also to look around for new items to try.

The store was very welcoming, and I would enjoy going there to shop for items to complement a grocery store trip.

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Randi Abels

Randi Abels is a ColoradoBiz intern.

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