Kurt Spataro has shopped at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op in three different locations since the 1980s, but he sees “a lot of new things to discover” at the co-op’s bigger and brighter new home at 2820 R St.
Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op
2820 R Street
59 parking spaces accessed from 29th Street, with electric car charging and bike parking; additional spaces in parking garage on S Street.
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“In every department, there’s more selection and it’s better displayed,” says Spataro, executive chef of the Paragary Restaurant Group. “The whole store is curated. They stock the products they believe in, often locally grown or locally made.”
The co-op closed its previous location at 1900 Alhambra Blvd. on Sunday, Oct. 9, and opened its new building at 29th and R streets on Oct. 16. During the first 12 hours, nearly 4,500 shoppers visited the store, compared to a daily average of 2,900 customers, according to co-op General Manager Paul Cultrera.
For Chef Spataro, it all starts with the produce department, which is the first thing shoppers see as they enter the supermarket. “It’s local produce and it’s 100 percent organic,” he says. “Things are displayed in a much more appealing way and a much more abundant way.”
Spataro reaches toward a display of carrots and beets. “If you look at things like this, root vegetables should be root down, greens up, and there simply was not enough space to do that in the other store. So it’s nice to see produce displayed in a way that will keep it fresher longer.”
Before farm-to-fork was a slogan, the co-op was working directly with local farmers “who come directly to the store and deliver. They come here for demos. They come here for chef dinners,” Cultrera says. “We’ve been working with some farmers for 30 years, so we have a very close relationship with the growers.”
Building the new location took six years and roughly $26 million — $15 million in developer funds and about $11 million from the co-op, Cultrera says. The co-op has a 20-year lease on the building, which expands first-floor retail space from 16,000 to 26,000 square feet, with an additional 16,000 square feet for offices and classes on the mezzanine.
One of the most visible expansions is in the deli, which generated about $70,000 in sales per week at the old store. On Day 1 in the new location, the deli more than doubled its daily sales rate, Cultrera says.
At the Alhambra store, shoppers took a number and waited for service at the deli counter. In the new location, customers are swarming to the self-serve buffet lines of hot food, cold food and salads. More employees have been added to service lines for coffee, gelato, pizza, burgers, made-to-order burritos and sushi. Just past the deli is the expanded cheese section, with cheese mongers on staff to advise and slice cheeses, and an expanded wine section.
The co-op’s grand opening will kick off on Thursday evening, Oct. 27, with a winemaker dinner featuring across-the-alley neighbor Revolution Wines. The weekend of Oct. 28-30 will feature various in-store events, which will be a final celebration for Cultrera. After 36 years in the co-op business — the last 18 here in Sacramento — the Massachusetts native is planning to retire and return home. He will be succeeded by Dan Arnett of Seattle’s Central Co-op, who serves on the board of National Co-op Grocers.
But the “soft opening” earlier this month is giving Cultrera a few weeks to enjoy the new store and take in the positive reaction from longtime co-op members like Spataro.
“It feels good to be here,” Spataro says as he scoops up a handful of dry-farmed tomatoes. “Once you become a customer of the co-op and you get it know it and the people, I just can’t go to another store. I don’t have any reason to.”