A new specialty chain is on its way to Rochester, joining an already crowded grocery scene.
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, based in Golden, Colo., has filed plans with city to build a 14,000-square-foot store on an open lot in southwest Rochester by the TJ Maxx Plaza and the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center
Think Mutual Bank owns the store site, which is at the corner of Greenview Drive and Salem Road Southwest. Think had planned to build there, but recently the bank announced it planned to offer the plot for development.
This will be Natural Grocers first store in Minnesota, though the 59-year-old public company currently operates 84 stores in 14 states, with 10 more expected to open soon.
While it generally is described as a specialty food retailer, Natural Grocers is very different than Hy-Vee, Trader Joe's or Aldi. It sells only organic foods as well as an extensive selection of vitamins and dietary supplements. The chain's website says its stores devote about 30 percent of their shelf space to vitamins, which in turn generate about 30 percent of its revenue.
"It looks like it goes deeper and more narrow than a mainstream grocery store. It is much more like a Whole Foods or a co-op," said Jonathan Seltzer, a St. Thomas University business professor.
Seltzer, who previously worked at the Supervalu grocery chain, doesn't think the addition of Natural Grocers to Rochester should hurt any one retail competitor more than others.
"It will probably draw some customers from many different players," he said.
This new store is just one factor in what is becoming a very competitive grocery scene in Rochester. Discount grocer Aldi is building its second store here and Hy-Vee plans to start construction of its fourth location in early 2015. The city's other food retailers include Cub Foods, Fareway Foods, Zzest, Walmart and Target.
"It seems that you are getting more square footage devoted to food retail in Rochester than the population would warrant," said Seltzer. "That probably speaks to the strength of Rochester's economy and its draw from nearby areas."
Groceries on the way
* Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is proposing to build a 14,000-square-foot store in southwest Rochester. No projected opening date.
* Hy-Vee is planning to build a fourth Rochester location, a 90,000-square-foot store at 4200 West Circle Drive N.W. The goal is have it completed and open by late summer or early fall of 2015.
* Aldi is building a 17,000-square-foot store, its second in Rochester on the northwest side. The goal is to open in April 2015.