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With the grand opening just days away, Bruce Peterson was busy stocking the shelves of the Good Food Store at its new location Sunday afternoon. Peterson is a regional sales representative for United Natural Foods. The store is scheduled to open Thursday.
Photo by TIM THOMPSON/Missoulian

Missoula grocery to open doors this week at new, expanded site

There's bound to be some nostalgic moments, the store's general manager said, but there won't be much fanfare when the doors close forever on what has been a healthy 20-year run for the cramped neighborhood grocery, which has specialized in providing the community with locally grown produce and chemical-free meat.

Come Thursday morning, a new day will dawn for the Good Food Store's cult-like following and all of Missoula when Loberg and her staff host the grand opening of the store's new home at 1600 S. Third St. W.

With 27,000 square feet of commercial space, the new store will likely feel like acres of aisles to many loyal Good Food Store customers. And for most everyone, it won't feel like any other grocery in all of Montana.

With the help of interior designers, architects, years of research and a

$6 million budget, the Good Food Store management team has created a full-blown health food store with a big-city look that is warm and inviting.

In an area roughly the size of the old Good Food Store is a full-service deli, which offers rotisserie Hutterite chicken, a salad bar, hot foods, specialty coffees and dessert, seating for 65 people with a view of Mount Sentinel and a fireplace made from rock bought in from Trout Creek.

The new store also boasts more than 800 bulk food items in gravity-fed bins, including honey dispensed from a heated container; a fresh meat and seafood department; 38 freezers (30 more than the old store) of frozen food; a cooking school; more than 1,000 different wine choices; Montana-made and grown products; a makeup counter; and a reading nook.

"In the old store we couldn't carry all the things our customers wanted," Loberg said. "Even though we knew they were great products, we just didn't have the space for them.

"Now that we have the space, we are finding out there are more products out there than we ever thought."

As one Good Food Store employee pointed out, there are products available for every kind of diet - like pizza made with spelt crust, hemp bread, soy-based ice cream and "No-Pudge" low-fat brownies made with yogurt.

"Part of this health food boom has to do with the fact that people are becoming more aware about what goes into packaged food and what they are feeding their children and themselves," Loberg said. "Natural-food stores across the country are doing brisk business."

The increased demand for such products hit Missoula in the early 1990s, and prompted Loberg and the GFS board of directors to remodel the Kensington store for efficiency and added room for more products.

Within a year, sales increased so dramatically that everyone knew it was just a matter of time before the Good Food Store would have to grow bigger or be consumed by competition from the arrival of a natural-food chain store in Missoula.

"We knew if a chain moved in we would struggle, and we thought, 'Why not expand the Good Food Store? Why not us?' "

The move not only benefits the store, but it has meant 45 new employee positions, more sales for local farmers and has revitalized a withering commercial area, said Dick King, director of the Missoula Area Economic Development Corp., which helped finance the expansion.

"I think we are very fortunate to have this business in Missoula - their sales have been growing and it's a local business," he said. "It means the area gets more jobs, and the money the business generates has a better chance to stay and circulate here - and that's healthy for all of us."

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com

If you're interested

The Good Food Store will celebrate its relocation and expansion in a grand opening celebration Thursday at its new home at 1600 S. Third St. W. in the Town and Country Shopping Center.

The celebration will continue through May 10 with free cake, food samples and daily health, fitness and nutrition lectures.

Starting Thursday, the Good Food Store will be open every day from

7 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information call 541-FOOD.

On Wednesday at 3 p.m., Cheryl Loberg will turn off the lights and lock the doors for the last time at the locally owned Good Food Store on Kensington Avenue.

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