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Westminster Local Foods campus back on track

With new owners, local-themed grocery store aims at February opening

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A long-awaited locally sourced grocery store in the former Albertson’s at 72nd and Sheridan Boulevard could be ready to open next month - with a new ownership group.

“We are very much ready,” said Sherman Wu, who has taken 100 percent ownership of Local Foods Campus, the entity that was working to open the grocer with a strong focus on local produce and product in the shopping center.

Wu said the store is on track for a Feb. 10 opening. The Westminster City Council has already favored a sales tax rebate for the new grocery store and Wu said the health inspector is scheduled to visit the store on Jan. 29.

“We assume he will give us a pass because he was already here once,” said Wu, who owns all the buildings in the shopping center on the northeast corner of the shopping center that includes Planet Fitness, McDonald’s and several other businesses that include retail and restaurants.

Wu said if the health inspector gives the green light on Jan. 29, he will almost immediately begin stocking shelves with a target date of Feb. 10 to open.

The grocery store has been two years in the making. 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 approved an extension until Sept. 30, 2017, for the store to make its first sale to receive the rebates with an option for City Economic Development Director John Hall to extend the deadline until Dec. 26, 2017, at his discretion. Hall did so.

On Jan. 3, Hall informed the council the store was not open and pitched rewriting the agreement to reflect the new ownership.

He proposed the same terms provided at least 60 percent of the items sold in the store come from Colorado and that the first sale is made by April 1.

“The request is really not an extension, given a change in ownership and the expiration date of the agreement, I would recommend that we actually enter into a new agreement with the new entity and that agreement...have an expiration date of April 1, 2018,” Hall told the council.

This proposal was in the form of an oral report to the council and no formal agreement has been put before the governing body to vote on, but following Hall’s report on Jan. 3 several members of the council expressed favorability to such an option.

Wu’s investment

Wu has been the financial support to get the store — now dubbed Local Foods Market — to where it is now: shelves lined up creating aisles, freezers plugged in and holding a constant food-safe temperature, construction, facade improvements and more totaling more than $1.6 million, according to Wu.

Vern Tharp spearheaded the project that included securing a $150,000 grant for Wu to partially reimburse him for the $750,000 (a figure provided by Wu) in facade improvements.

Wu also provided funding beyond what he expected. Local Foods Campus, Inc. leased the space with an effective date of March 1, 2016, according to the lease agreement provided by Tharp. 

Tharp said that lacking public investment Local Food Campus Inc. turned to  Wu, who funded the $1.6 million project in exchange for ownership of the company. Tharp said he and his partners were happy to part with their shares to help bring the project to fruition.

“The original purpose of the founders of the Local Foods Campus group, was to serve as a catalyst and connector within the local foods space,” Tharp said.  “We do not have to continue to own the Local Foods Market to have achieved our goals in this project.  The fact that such a place for the year-round sale of hundreds of local food and non-food products now exists is a big win for us.”

Tharp also pointed out the facade grant from the city that he secured for Wu as a financial contribution.

“Sherman wrote real checks and took real risks to build out and open this very unique community store,” Tharp wrote in an email to the Westminster Window. “No one else was willing to do it. Sherman did it.”

Tharp said the community owes Wu a “thank you” for bringing this project to fruition.

Beyond the financial investment, Wu has a vested interest in providing an anchor store for the shopping center because he owns the property. He said about 90 percent of the stores are occupied.

Local food

“I’m still focused on the same vision,” Wu said.

That vision is providing Colorado-based products at an affordable price.

The store will include a coffee and kombucha bar, grab-and-go items like sandwiches, fresh produce, frozen foods, vitamins, health and beauty products, a fresh meat section with speciality items like stuffed meats and food demonstration areas.

In his presentation to the council, Hall noted Wu has invested $700,000 for inventory at the store.

Wu also said that in addition to 60 percent of local products to be sold, more than 60 percent of the approximately 30 employees hired are local residents.

Wu is also expecting online sales through www.colocalfoodsmarket.com. Some sales had been made through the website last year, he said, but that feature is temporarily disabled and expects it to return soon.

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