The opening of the new Alfalfa’s here in Boulder, Colo., is creating excitement and curiousity in the local natural products community. The store, which opened in 1983, was a Boulder institution for years in a town that is often considered an epicenter of the naturals' industry. Alfalfa’s merged with Wild Oats in 1996 and succumbed to the Whole Foods buyout. Original founder, Mark Retzloff, recently bought the store and is reopening it as Alfalfa’s.
On April 20, I attended a sneak peak party at the new Alfalfa’s. The store was gorgeous—a cozy wine shop where you know every vintage is good, the sexiest most sophisticated bulk section I’ve ever seen and a space to enjoy prepared foods that rivals a fine restaurant.
One thought that crossed my mind last night while cruising the aisles of the 20 thousand square-foot store featuring gourmet, local and organic products, many I’d never seen before, was that they are certainly beating Whole Foods at its own game.
Boulder’s main Whole Foods is currently undergoing a major renovation. One new feature is an expansive prepared foods section with steam tables for miles. While the variety is fun, it’s almost too much and smacks of Las Vegas buffets. Alfalfa’s is much tamer in terms of quantity, which I like. The store is opulent but restrained.
I remember as a teenager shopping at Alf’s. It was a typical health food store—nothing fancy but filled with carefully selected, quality products. Then it expanded, and expanded again. All this was welcome because the store never lost its lively, welcoming indie-owned feel.
I must add one lament--the gentrification of Boulder. While I love the new Alfalfa’s (who wouldn’t?), I want to walk into the doors of a grand opening event of a Boulder co-op or small mom and pop store--a store by the people for the people. I’m not a hippie, I love sophisticated, upscale experiences. But I like them as that, experiences. It seems that the demand for casual, inexpensive in Boulder is disintegrating and that upscale is the daily experience.
Boulder co-op anyone?