Greener groceries come to South Jeffco

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By AJ Vicens

So many shoppers crammed the new Sunflower Farmers Market on Aug. 9, it looked like a shopping mall on the weekend before Christmas. But there was no snow outside, and the only thing resembling jingling bells was the manic beeping of checkout-stand scanners.

Still, Christmas came early for the legions of South Jeffco consumers who apparently have been waiting for a healthy alternative when it comes to grocery shopping.

Aug. 9, just three days after the store’s grand opening, was the first Saturday for the new Sunflower Market at South Wadsworth Boulevard and West Cross Drive.

Sunflower Market is part of a national chain selling low-cost, largely organic products. The store offers fresh meats, vegetables, vitamins and even a sushi bar.

Mike Gilliland, Sunflower Market’s founder and CEO, was the original founder of Wild Oats Markets. He created Sunflower Market in 2002 as a lower-cost version of the health food store. The South Jeffco location is the sixth to open in Colorado, and the company hopes to open four more in the state by the end of the year.

The stores operate in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, and they sport this motto: “Serious food … silly prices.”

“I just like something that’s guaranteed organic,” said customer Lee Soderbloom. “This is my second trip here already.”

Soderbloom’s granddaughter works near the store, so when he drops her off, he stops at the Sunflower Market to try different things.

“I’m just trying it out to see if it’s better than King (Soopers) or Safeway,” Soderbloom added. “The prices are always good when they open a new store. We’ll see if it lasts.”

A healthy crowd jammed the store at midafternoon Saturday, keeping employees busy. Store management, however, declined to be interviewed for this story, citing the need to “coordinate the message through the marketing department.”

Store employees were offering an ear of sweet corn and a soda for $1, and several people enjoyed their corn in a patio seating area south of the store’s entrance.

Jack Lite, a Green Mountain resident visiting the store for the first time, said through bites of corn that he’s a huge fan.

“Usually we shop at the one in Aurora,” Lite said. “We’ve been waiting here for one for a long time.”

Lite said he takes care of most of his needs at the nearby Costco, but he likes the vegetables at Sunflower Market.

“It’s fresh, cheaper, and there’s more of a variety,” Lite said.

The store is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com.