GCFP In the News

Natural Grocers opening delayed

Aug 30, 2023

Natural Grocers opening delayed

Local partnerships could benefit farmers, food pantry

Gunnison Country Times


Natural GrocersNatural Grocers, the organic grocery store breaking ground in the former Darnell’s True Value building off Spencer Avenue, is now slated to open Nov. 29. Delays in the permitting and construction process pushed the original timeline out a couple months, said Katie Macarelli, Natural Grocers public relations manager.  

Since the new location was announced this spring, the company has filled about three quarters of the nearly 20 available positions, Macarelli said. Four open positions, including a grocery manager, are still posted on the Natural Grocers hiring website and hourly wages are listed starting at $18 an hour up to $22 an hour. 

The Natural Grocers Human Resources team has been working with Gunnison High School and the Gunnison Country Chamber of Commerce to get the word out to fill the final job slots, Macarelli said. Employees do not have union representation, but the company offers a benefit package that includes medical, dental and vision insurance, paid leave and a 401k, among others. 

When the store opens, local producers and craftspeople may have a chance to sell their products in-store, through the company’s local vendor program. Produce must be certified organic, and refrigerated items could include dairy, eggs, fresh meat, beverages and even breads. The company will consider non-consumable items like homemade body care, jewelry or stickers.

The grocery store is also set to support the Gunnison Country Food Pantry as a Feeding America partner. Through Feeding America, a national nonprofit network of food banks, the pantry receives food past its “best-by” date from other grocery stores in the valley, including City Market and Safeway. 

“We’re excited to have an additional resource in town that focuses on the health of its community … it should be especially healthy food, too, which is sometimes not always things we get from our Feeding America partners,” said Jodi Payne, the pantry’s executive director. 

Natural Grocers will also run a “bring your own bag” program that benefits the pantry. For each customer who brings a reusable shopping bag, the store will donate five cents to the pantry. Since the bag program started in 2009, Natural Grocers has donated about $2 million to local pantries, Macarelli said. The pantry will also receive a $2,500 donation when the store opens.

Each donation, no matter the size, helps, Payne said. Last year, the pantry received a nearly $600,000 matching grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office, but the pantry must raise money to receive that money.

“It’s contingent upon community support. We were able to prove that when writing the grant, but it can’t stop, because we received the funds. The pantry gets this money if the community continues to support us. That’s why the Natural Grocers reusable bag funding can only help, even if it’s only $100 a year,” Payne said. 

The store’s grand opening will include events to encourage pantry donations, and those fundraisers and food drives will continue throughout the year, Macarelli said, especially during the holiday season. 

“In one of our stores, someone picks up produce and gives it to their goats at the end of every two weeks,” Macarelli said. “So there’s all sorts of ways that we work with people and working with the food bank is one of our genuinely favorite things to do.” 

(Abby Harrison can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or abby@gunnisontimes.com.)