Hundreds of people swarmed the aisles of the new Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op on Wednesday, picking up old favorites like hemp oil but also enjoying new additions like an expanded hot food bar featuring pizza and made-to-order burritos.
The store at 28th and R streets opened to much fanfare, as cars clogged nearby streets and a new parking structure. Customers were impressed by the vast selection of items in the 46,000-square-foot store, nearly double the old location at Alhambra Boulevard and S Street.
“It’s so much bigger,” said Leslie Andrews, 56, of Sacramento, who was picking up hemp oil for her soap-making business. “I really like the wider aisles.”
Size is everything for the revamped co-op, from more parking spaces to the building’s open-air design that fully accentuates the larger space. Customers long complained abut the lack of parking at the Alhambra branch.
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“They were driving around the parking lot and would get discouraged and not come back,” said Paul Cultrera, general manager of the co-op.
Now, the co-op has more than doubled its daytime parking spaces to 118. At night, the upper level of the parking structure is available to customers, making for an additional 180 spaces, according to Cultrera. A light-rail station and bus stop are next door.
Ultimately, Cultrera predicts the co-op will benefit from the improvements and grow in popularity. He projects sales to reach $40 million in the first year of operation, compared to about $33 million in revenue at the old location. Cultrera has also hired 60 people, bringing the total number of employees to 250.
The new co-op was built on a former parking lot and cost about $11 million to build, more than the original budget of about $7 million, Cultrera said.
Amir Behnoud, a Sacramento County employee, was one of many to stop by for lunch.
“There’s a ton of options,” he said, pointing to the variety of hummus at the self-serve bar.
But on Wednesday, the 28-year-old opted for a simple sandwich, saying he had plenty of time to try out everything since he expects to visit three to five days a week.