Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage to construct community room

WICHITA — Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage has filed a building permit to do $120,000 in construction at its store at 1715 N. Rock Road, which opened last fall.

“It’s going to be a community space,” says Nancy Flynn, director of marketing for the Colorado-based chain.

“It is going to be, of course, for our customers to enjoy, to come in and relax.”

The store already has a meeting room, which groups can rent and nonprofits generally can use for free.

The community room has a few different purposes, Flynn says.

She says it will have free WiFi, coffee and tea and comfortable seating that encourages customers to drop by. Also, it will be plumbed to eventually have a demo kitchen. In the meantime, appliances and other things necessary for food demonstrations can be brought in.

Flynn says once the kitchen is installed, the store will offer cooking classes. Local chefs can also use the space for demonstrations, she says.

“We have the ability to really make it a fun event for them to do that,” Flynn says. “We will work with people. We really want them to come and enjoy this space.”

The store will offer nutrition classes as well, such as classes on living a gluten-free or dairy-free lifestyle.

The 1,970-square-foot space will take about 30 days to build. Flynn says construction should begin in the next few months.

She says most new Natural Grocers stores have the community rooms.

The store’s entry into the market preceded the arrival of the competing Fresh Market, which opened in June at Bradley Fair.

“It’s not a threatening thing at all,” Flynn says. “There’s enough pieces of pie to go around.”

She says competition is a good thing.

“It’s good for everybody. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for the stores themselves.”

Flynn says if anything, Fresh Market will make Natural Grocers fine-tune its customer service even further “and step up our game.”