The folks behind Leevers Locavore, which will soon take the place of a shuttered Save-a-Lot at 2630 West 38th Avenue, have done their homework; they're including "Northside," the neighborhood's unofficial but longtime nickname, on the grocery store's sign.
That's just one of the things that Leevers will be doing to court residents of Highland, West Highland, Sunnyside and Berkeley (the official neighborhood names), according to store manager Chris Franklin. Before remodeling even began on the building, the company solicited feedback from neighbors to find out what was important to them. Locally sourced food products turned out to be the biggest request from future shoppers, ahead of natural and organic foods, which also scored high on the list. "But organic at a really good value," Franklin adds. "Price is a big concern with shoppers."
So in addition to Colorado meats and produce — much of it from farms that want to make the leap from farmers' markets — Leevers will be stocking salads, meal kits and grab-and-go items from local farmers and entrepreneurs, helping them navigate the rules and regulations of selling on the wholesale level. And along with a Japanese-themed kiosk from chef Jeff Osaka and a cured-meat and cheese kiosk, there will be a pizza, gelato and doughnut station, which will be overseen by another Denver restaurateur who has yet to be named.
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Franklin thinks that shoppers will also be excited by the local beers and other beverages on tap at the bar in the center of the market. He's already been in contact with breweries in the area, including Diebolt Brewing Company, to provide exclusive beers; kombucha and wine will also be poured. Because of the on-site bar, packaged beer won't be available for purchase in the grocery store, but there will be a separate retail shop for packaged beer to go.
Leevers Locavore is a new project from Leevers Supermarkets Inc., which operates Save-a-Lot stores in Colorado, as well as one Colorado Ranch Market location. The company is a fourth-generation Colorado family business that offers an employee stock ownership plan (or ESOP). "Employees are granted a certain number of shares based on age, tenure and compensation," he explains.
"This is the first of its kind and a proof of concept," Franklin adds, so we could see more Leevers Locavore openings in the future, but this one will be unique in several ways. Although the building doesn't look much different from box stores built over the last few decades, it was once an outpost of a small Denver grocery chain called Miller's, dating back to 1951. Some of the structure's original details have been uncovered and salvaged, most notably the hardwood floors covering nearly the entire space that will soon be occupied by grocery aisle and shelves. Many of the neighbors surveyed remembered Miller's, Franklin says, so Leevers wanted to pay tribute to the neighborhood's past.
While some longtime residents of north Denver have scoffed at Leevers Locavore for being just another sign of gentrification in the area, a grocery store with an ear to the community's needs is certainly a step up from another vacant building.