It is what you will not find in the aisles of the new Natural Grocers store in Davenport that sets the Colorado-based chain apart.
Natural Grocers, which opens its doors at 3805 E. 53rd St. on Wednesday, does not stock products that contain artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or hydrogenated oils. Its 100-percent USDA Certified Organic produce is grown free of pesticides and there are no genetically modified organisms, or GMO, products. The store's cleaning products do not contain toxic chemicals, and its body care products are free of artificial scents and colors.
Likewise, at Natural Grocers there also is no worry of any cross contamination in the produce section or bulk foods, which are sold pre-packaged. You also won't find a plastic bag at the bag-less checkouts. The demonstration kitchen, used for free nutritional classes for the community, is completely gluten-free.
"People are starting to get back to what things were before chemicals were introduced," said Travis Clark, the assistant manager.
Known as America's "Organic Headquarters," Natural Grocers now boasts 139 stores across 19 states with the opening of the 15,000-square-foot Davenport store. Built on the site of the former Ruby Tuesday's restaurant, the store also is the Lakewood, Colorado-based chain's farthest eastern location, Clark said.
"Everybody can be our customer such as the person who might be looking to change their lifestyle," he said, adding "All the people with food allergies will be a strong customer base, especially with our gluten-free options."
Throughout the aisles of produce, organic and natural groceries, dietary supplements and vitamins, frozen foods, and body care products, the gluten-free products are clearly marked on the shelves. Store signage informs shoppers of what health concern the vitamins and supplements will help.
But shoppers still will find some of their favorites, such as ice cream or pizza — just healthier versions. "It can be a misconception that you can't have the bad (for you) foods. You still can be fun and eat healthy," Clark said.
The store is Natural Grocer's first Quad-City store and its fourth in Iowa, joining Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Clive. The now publicly owned company also will open stores in Iowa City in July and Dubuque later this year. It has no stores in Illinois.
"We're excited to be opening in Davenport," said store manager Brad Orendorff, who brings 25 years of Quad-City retail experience, including nearly eight years in the vitamin and supplement business — a strong part of Natural Grocers' lineup. Clark brings a grocery store background to the team having worked for Fareway.
The company, founded by Margaret and Philip Isely in 1955, is run by a second generation today. Their sons, Kemper and Zepher Isely, are co-presidents, daughter Heather Isely is executive vice president, and daughter-in law Liz Isely is operations director. Grandchildren now are beginning a third generation in the company.
The Davenport store has 17 full-time employees, but still is looking to hire a nutritional health coach — a signature position for Natural Grocers.
Caroline Cheong, the company's Midwest nutritional health coach regional manager, said each store has a coach who works individually with customers on nutrition as well as teaches science-based nutrition classes for the public. Other free education classes, including some taught by local guest experts, also will be offered in the demonstration kitchen.
Clark said one of the company's founding principles is everyday affordable pricing. "It doesn't have to be expensive to be healthy. We want to break that misconception."
Natural Grocers traces its roots to 1955 in Golden, Colorado, when Margaret and Philip Isely obtained a $200 loan to begin going door-to-door selling nutrition books.
"They would loan out the books and come back in a week or so to discuss nutrition" and take orders for supplements, whole grain bread and other natural foods, Cheong said.
Margaret Isely had turned to healthy alternatives after becoming chronically ill after the birth of their second child. "She read the books of Adelle Davis, who was a controversial nutritionist at her time," Cheong added.
The company traditionally requires a higher standard of its products, some of which it sources from local farmers and producers, she said. Among its standards, its meat must be raised without antibiotics, growth promoters or feed containing animal by-products. Dairy products must come from confinement-free dairies and now a 100-percent free range egg standard includes a requirement about the size of space the hens can move about.
In some cases, "Our standards are tougher than the industry," Cheong said.