Local Foods Campus still on order

Developer confident grocery venture is on the way


Vern Thrap has unwavering optimism.

Standing in a building in the midst of construction, he points at empty spaces. A coffee bar there. A deli farther in the back. Produce over there.

Tharp, president of Local Foods Campus, Inc., is confident his grocery store venture is closer to fruition.

Tharp’s project received another extension to be eligible for a sales tax rebate that he says is fundamental to making the store viable. The Westminster City Council, for a second time, approved 90-day extension for the financial incentive to help the new grocery store that promises locally sourced food.

“They were very, very, very helpful, but they wanted to see us make progress,” Tharp said of the city council.

He said the store will cost about $900,000 to open, not including the food.

The city started discussions with Local Foods Campus in the fall of 2015 then offered incentives in spring of 2016, according to John Hall, economic development director for the city.

The incentives included a $150,000 grant to the owner of the building — the former Albertson’s store at 72nd Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard — for interior improvements like floor grinding and painting.

The incentives also included a rebate of 70 percent of sales tax collected during a five-year period up to $953,000. The deadline was originally June 30, but pushed back to Sept. 30. Now, the deadline is Dec. 30. However, Tharp said he is hopeful the store could open by Thanksgiving.

“It all depends on the inspector,” said Sherman Wu, the building’s owner. “The building inspector, the health inspector. When they say, `OK,’ then we can open.”

On Oct. 18, Wu walked through the building with an electrician to discuss wiring of cold food storage and display cases while construction crews worked on drywall. Trenches that were along the perimeter in July have been filled in as the floor is smoothed out. While it appears there is still much to be done, Tharp describes what it will look like as though he’s looking at the finished product.

“We’re trying to create a family place,” Tharp said, “a place for the neighborhood that’s affordable — fresh, healthy food that’s affordable. That’s a difficult blending to do.”

Tharp is promising that 70 percent of the approximately 5,000 products in the store will be sourced in or near Colorado, even in the winter months.

“Produce is only about 7 to 9 percent of our total products — they’re important products,” Tharp said.

He said there are still options for produce in the winter months and is working with Arkansas Valley Organic Growers for that.

“They do garlic, they do onions — they do a whole bunch of root crops that we can still get year-round,” Tharp said.

Tharp is also working with distributors like Denver-based Growers Organic, which provides organic produce from local and regional farms.

While there will be many canned, jarred or prepackaged items made locally, there will still be fresh options year-round in addition to produce like meat. There will be an in-house butcher.

“If we’re going to try to make local beef affordable, we’re going to have to cut it ourselves,” Tharp said.

Like many grocery stores, Tharp plans to have a “grab-and-go” area for quick and healthy sandwiches and salads. He touted convenience and affordable as two main goals.

“We’re the average guy’s Whole Foods,” Tharp said.

Tharp said the Local Food Market will also provide 35 to 50 jobs and hopes to employ as many people as possible from the surrounding neighborhoods.

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