Founded 64 years ago by Margaret and Philip Isely in Golden, Colo., Natural Grocers opened its 15th store in Woodland Park last week. Hundreds showed up for giveaways and to check the place out on opening day.

An employee reported that 339 people were lined around the building before 8 a.m. Jan. 23.

With stores in 19 states, the third-generation of Isely descendants manage the stores. Founded on the principles of providing science-based health nutrition education, Natural Grocers is dedicated to being part of the community.

“When someone brings in a re-usable bag we donate five cents to the local food bank and donate expired food products,” said Meghan Meneely, nutrition health coach and regional manager for coaches in Colorado, North Dakota and Minnesota.

While Meneely has a degree in nutritional science from Oklahoma State University, other coaches have a variety of university degrees. “Our coaches come from different walks of life but they all have to have certification in some science-based field,” she said.

In Woodland Park, Mikki Aragon is the local nutrition health coach and is available for consultations.

With an area set aside for classes, the education center is a resource library that includes a reference book on suggestions for reducing the effects of a multitude of illnesses. “We coaches provide classes in this beautiful space; they are free and open to the public,” Meneely said. “We also offer free health coaching sessions by appointment.”

A file cabinet in the room is packed with folders that address possible questions about health, including information about supplements, foods and essential oils, for instance.

“If someone has a question about breakfast, wants to know if breakfast is really important, we can grab the file and talk with them about it,” Meneely said.

Enthusiastic about everything in the new store — supplements, body care products, organic produce, gluten-free foods and supplements — Meneely exudes energy. “We have a ton of supplements,” she said. “We do have CBD products, tinctures, capsules and balms, made from cannabinoid oil and completely different from THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana).”

In addition to the menu of products, Natural Grocers hosts health fairs, including a gluten-free fair. “It’s very hard to shop for gluten-free,” Meneely said.

The grocery section is characteristic of Natural Grocers’ principles, with the majority of foods non-GMO and none with artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, or monosodium glutamate. “This year we launched our Natural Grocery-named products: breads, jams, jellies, fruits and canned goods, vegetables and frozen foods,” Meneely said.

In the bulk section, all products are packaged. “We grind all of our nut butters; literally the only things in those are dry-roasted almonds and dry-roasted peanuts, nothing else,” Meneely said. “I love our bulk department — it’s fun and funky; we even have trail mixes.”

Another bragging point is the kombucha section. A fermented tea drink, kombucha helps with digestion and detoxification, Meneely said. “It does have trace amounts of alcohol because of the fermentation process. But anyone with religious or dietary reasons should stay away from kombucha,” she added.

The store also has a variety of fresh and frozen meats, including elk, venison and ostrich, as well as dairy and dairy-free milk products.

The day ended with an ice cream social and a packed parking lot.

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