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After race to the finish, Local Foods opens

Colorado-based natural goods prominent at 72nd Avenue market

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Westminster’s Local Food Market was two years in the planning and four months in the making: they weren’t about let a little thing like a shelf tag glitch stop their grand opening.

The long-awaited grocery store opened Feb. 18, filling the vacant former Albertsons at 72nd and Sheridan Boulevard.

General Manager Phil Valentine said a computer glitch kept store employees from getting shelf price tags in place before the grand opening, meaning customers would have no way of knowing just what they paying until they checked out.

So Valentine and owner Sherman Wu decided to offer all grand opening shoppers 20 percent discount.

“It’s been a race,” Valentine said. “We’ve been only been working on this four months, from start to finish — building the organization, buying the products. It was a dead heat, so we offered 20 percent of today so they can feel confident in their prices.”

The city council first heard the proposal for a 70 percent sales tax rebate over a five-year period in February 2016. The council approved the rebate — estimated to be worth $1.36 million by the original developer — with an expiration date of June 30, 2017. Councilors have pushed back that expiration date three times since then.

The project was initially spearheaded by Verne Tharp and funded by Wu. That involved securing a $150,000 grant for Wu to partially reimburse him for the $750,000 in facade improvements.

Finally this year, Wu funded another $1.6 million project in exchange for full ownership of the company.

Mayor Herb Atchison said he initially voted against the city’s sales tax rebate but said Saturday his opinion changed with Wu’s increased involvement.

“The new ownership has given me a lot more confidence, and because of the local foods concept people will come down,” Atchison said. “And the more Colorado products we get in here, the better it will do.”

Councilor Anita Seitz said it’s a good example of how to revitalize the community.

“As a city, we do want to concentrate on entrepreneurs and building wealth within our communities,” Seitz said. “This shows we are promoting that.”

According to the agreement with the city, at least 60 percent of the items sold in the store must come from Colorado and the first sale is must be made by April 1.

But Valentine said the store was short of the 60 percent level on the grand opening.

“Our concept is to provide a full-service natural food grocery store with a strong focus on local goods,” Valentine said. “We couldn’t do that if we limited our stock to just Colorado items. People would have to go to two different stores to get what they need, so we are offering more. But we’ve only been actively working to open for four months so there is a lot more we can do and we will continue working on it.”

The store includes a coffee and kombucha bar, grab-and-go items like sandwiches, fresh produce, frozen foods, vitamins, health and beauty products, a fresh meat butcher shop with specialty items like stuffed meats and food demonstration areas.

“All the meat is Colorado meat - except for the seafood,” Valentine said.

City Economic Development Director John Hall said the city would work Wu and the market to bring in more Colorado-produced goods.

“The city sees itself as a partner in this,” Hall said. “The shopping center here is 95 percent rented now and they’ve hired all local people, so it’s fantastic for the community at large.”

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