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Co-op eyes new grocery store location

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The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is looking at the possibility of moving its store from the current site at 1900 Alhambra Blvd. to a larger location with more than double the parking at the block that borders R, S, 28th and 29th streets 

24th and S streets

Members will vote on the potential move toward the end of March or early April, and if approved, the new store could open in 2014, said Wendy Hoyt, an urban planer who works for the new site’s developer, Separovich/Domich Real Estate Development. Ravel Rasmussen Properties is also part of the development team.

Co-op General Manager Paul Cultrera said Tuesday that the proposed move would be advantageous for a number of reasons.

“Our current site is too small, the retail space is cramped and parking is inadequate,” he said. “I’ve been talking about this for a number of years.”

He added that the co-op board and management began seriously looking for a new site about two and a half years ago, and they wanted it to be close to the current store and have more parking.

“Parking is a major complaint we get from our customers,” Cultrera said. “We have 56 spaces for about 2,800 customers coming in every day.”

If approved, the new site will include 61 parking spaces in front of the store and another 55 on the ground floor of a four-story parking garage. Currently, the site is a parking lot, and for the building to be constructed, will need to be moved, as they are used by state workers. The other three floors of the garage would be for them, but open to co-op shoppers on nights and weekends.

The store itself will be able to carry more products, and Cultrera said more space would be added to adequately stock them, though not likely bring in entirely new product lines.

“We certainly could expand the produce market,” he said. “We’d like to feature more local farmers.”

Other areas for expansion include the cheese department and, most notably, the meat department, which was added about five or six years ago.

“The deli is also very busy, and when it was laid out 14 years ago, it was doing $20,000 per week in sales. Now it’s doing about $50,000,” Cultrera said, adding that all the deli products are produced in a small kitchen behind the deli area, and a larger one is needed to keep up with demand.

Another asset to the proposed new space would be consolidating the co-op’s five buildings into one, allowing management offices, administrative departments, the learning center and the grocery store to all be together.

Hoyt said the administrative portion would be on a second-floor mezzanine, and the overall retail space would – under the current preliminary plans – grow about 38 percent from 16,000 square feet to 22,000 square feet. The total building will be about 40,000 square feet.

The developers are planning to spend approximately $15 million up front, and the co-op will spend an additional $6 million on improvements such as refrigeration units, and will then sign a long-term lease for the building, Hoyt said.

The total project cost is estimated to be about $15 million, Hoyt said, meaning it will have to be approved by the co-op’s membership.

Since the money needed to be borrowed is more than the company’s net worth, co-op members will need to OK it with a simple majority.

Cultrera said that members – who are also owners – will vote on a ballot that will be sent out to the entire membership.

Hoyt said informational meetings will be held with the members and the neighbors starting in March.

The move will not be the first for the co-op, which had its first major store on Freeport Boulevard and moved to the current location in the late 1980s. A second store opened in Elk Grove in 2005, but it shut down in early 2007.

If the membership approves the move to the new site, Cultrera said, the building will be done as sustainably as possibly, but it is not likely that the co-op will seek certification by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

“Everyone knows the standards, and we want to build it to meet the standards, but the certification is $70,000 or $80,000,” he said.

The former Elk Grove store was built to be energy efficient, and the electric bills were about 50 percent less per cubic foot than the current co-op site, Cultrera said.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

Editorial Note: Corrections were made to this story after it was published. The incorrect information was struck out and the correct information added.

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