Denver's north side will soon have a new stop for groceries, breakfast, lunch, dinner...and a drink. Leevers Locavore opens at 7 a.m. on Thursday, November 21, with local, organic and natural products; several food-service counters serving the likes of breakfast sandwiches, pizza and sushi; and a bar where you can order wine and Colorado beer to sip as you stroll and shop.
"We're offering the energy of a food hall or East Coast market, but in a grocery store setting," says general manager Chris Franklin, who previously worked for Trader Joe's. The GM compares his new store to his old employer, noting that there's a similar emphasis on customer service, something rare in the supermarket business.
Leevers Locavore was built from the bones of a former Save-a-Lot in a building that dates back to 1951. During renovations, the company stripped back layers of linoleum flooring to reveal hardwood floors that cover almost the entire expanse of the store, and they also removed a drop ceiling to reveal steel beams, converting a second-floor manager's office into mezzanine cafe seating in the process. Leevers also built a new front door "to put you in the middle of the action," Franklin notes; the former entrance now serves as a doorway to a patio where shoppers can enjoy coffee, drinks and food.
The new front door leads directly to a produce section stocked with Colorado fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Encircling the produce section are several food-service counters, including a coffee bar stocked with beans from Queen City Collective Coffee; a pizza counter operated by Mike Miller's longtime neighborhood pizzeria group, Basil Doc's; a version of chef Justin Brunson's Culture Meat & Cheese that will focus primarily on sandwiches, soups and charcuterie boards; and One Two Three Sushi (which replaces the originally planned Sushi-Rama counter). In the same area, there's also a small plant and floral shop from Buckley House of Flowers and Tigerlily Goods and a "chop shop" with fruits and vegetables prepared each day for home cooks.
Brunson will have a meaty presence at Leevers Locavore, in addition to the Culture counter. He's overseeing the entire meat section and butcher counter, which is branded under his River Bear American Meats business. So you'll see plenty of prepared meats — ham, roast beef, turkey and sausages, for example — made by River Bear, but the chef is also bringing in other cured meats and products from purveyors he's sought out from around the country. He's also in charge of procuring all the fresh and frozen beef, pork, chicken, turkey and lamb available in the meat department.
"I've really wanted a butcher shop since I was twelve, and now I've got one," Brunson points out. "But it's not only a specialty market; we've got meat for everyday use, too."
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So you'll be able to pick up your Thanksgiving turkey (a Ferndale Market bird from Minnesota) for $3.99 a pound fresh or $2.99 a pound frozen, choose reasonably priced beef from Revier Cattle Company, or go high-end with dry-aged or grass-fed Colorado beef from Koberstein Farms. "My priorities are meat from animals raised naturally and without hormones," the chef notes. "And from small, family-run farms."
Another of Brunson's priorities is seeking out Colorado farmers and ranchers to find good, short-term deals for daily specials in the meat department. He points out that many meat producers can easily sell their high-end cuts but have trouble finding purchasers for large amounts of ground beef, for example. Leevers has the capacity to purchase big orders all at once, giving the farmer a place to sell meat and good deals for shoppers. And because he's running a fully operational butcher shop, Brunson and his team will also sell bones, stocks, demi-glace and other butcher-counter products. "That's what we've both been talking about: customer service in a grocery store," Brunson says of his relationship with Franklin.
The Leevers Locavore grand opening kicks off at 7 a.m. Thursday at 2630 West 38th Avenue. Along with the usual festivities, look for Brunson's smoker out front; he'll be cooking up a whole hog with a Colorado-style green chile-vinegar mop — something that could become a regular occurrence at the grocery store. Thereafter, Leevers will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.