Calgary Co-op Owned ‘Community Natural Foods’ Expanding to Edmonton’s Old Strathcona with 1st Store [Interview]

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Community Natural Foods, owned by Calgary Co-op, will be opening its first store outside of Calgary this June in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona neighbourhood.

The health food store has three locations in Calgary. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity to introduce this long-established and well-respected health food store to the Edmonton market, one that is currently underserved in the health food retail space,” said Ken Keelor, CEO of Calgary Co-op and President Community Natural Foods.

Ken Keelor

“We believe that wellness should be available for all, and we strive for this through the sharing of knowledge, offering choices in products we carry, and supporting local producers and partners invested in the wellness of our community members. We’re looking forward to assisting the people of Edmonton with their wellness journey.

“We’ve had our eye on Edmonton for a while. It’s sort of underserved market when it comes to health food. So we’ve always had an eye to Edmonton when it comes to the Community Natural Foods banner.”

Calgary Co-op acquired Community Natural Foods in November 2019.

Image: Community Natural Foods
Community Natural Foods (Image: Field Agent)

The Edmonton store will open in more than 10,000 square feet and will create about 40 jobs.

“It’s a really nice location. So firstly, it used to be a health food store with a different brand name. That health food store closed down and left the space vacant. Customers in that neighbourhood were potentially used to going to this physical location,” said Keelor. “We liked it because of that.

“It’s a nice size store at 10,000 square feet. It’s got good facilities when it comes to parking and the orientation of the building, entrance and exit and loading docks. Some of the physical features are attractive but the most attractive one is it used to be a natural food store and people were used to going there.”

Keelor said there is more opportunity for expansion of the Community Natural Foods brand in Edmonton. 

“I’ve always been someone who is very focused. I don’t have a grandiose plan to put in a whole bunch of stores. I like to start with one and make it really exciting and make it a destination for Edmontonians. I’m hoping people from all around Edmonton will be driving to this store because it’s going to be really, really nice,” he said.

“Many Edmontonians know Community Natural Foods from Calgary. It’s a solid brand . . . It’s been around a while. Never say never. There may be opportunities for other locations in Edmonton.”

Image: Community Natural Foods

According to the company’s website, Community Natural Foods was founded in 1977 by the Wilkes brothers. 

Calgary Co-op, owned by members, is one of the largest retail co-operatives in North America with locations in Calgary, Airdrie, Cochrane, High River, Okotoks, and Strathmore. It includes 22 food stores & pharmacies, 37 gas stations, 4 Home Health Care centres, 29 WSB stores (including World of Whisky and a World of Wine store) and 10 cannabis locations. Besides Community Natural Foods, Calgary Co-op operates and is the owner of Beacon Pharmacies, The Organic Box and Willow Park Wines & Spirits. 

It has 400,000 members, 3,850 employees, assets of $700 million, more than 100 stores and annual sales of $1.3 billion.

Keelor said the Community Natural Foods store could also expand to markets just outside the City of Calgary.

“We see Community Natural Foods as a banner that has opportunity to grow and expand geographically,” he said. “There’s areas around Calgary as well that continue to be an opportunity for us. I will just say that you can expect Community Natural Foods to continue to expand. What we’ve done in the last three years since we bought it, beyond weathering the COVID storm, we completely re-did the decor and presentation of our downtown Community Natural Foods store. That’s the first one we touched.

“We did a new design. We worked with a third-party to actually build a new design and execute it in that store. We inherited the size and shape of that store but we were still able to move things around to kind of line up with our new design . . . It’s completely transformed versus the previous look without losing the essence of who Community Natural Foods is.

“So that design we’ll continue to use. We’ll be able to use it in Edmonton. We’ll be able to use it in the other two stores here in Calgary and in other areas we might choose to open these Community Natural Foods stores.”

Recently Calgary Co-op announced its plans to expand in the Town of Cochrane just west of Calgary. The grocery chain purchased six acres of land in the commercial shopping centre of the new, centrally-located mixed-use community of Greystone. The development plan, which is subject to approval, includes a 35,000-square-foot Calgary Co-op Food store including a Pharmacy, a Wine Spirits Beer, Cannabis and Convenience store as well as a six-pump Gas Station with a double touchless car wash, and an additional 30,000 square feet of commercial retail space. 

Construction is set to begin in the Fall with an anticipated opening date of Spring 2025. 

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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