Community Natural Foods Expands Beyond Calgary with New Store in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona Neighbourhood [Photos]


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Community Natural Foods, owned by Calgary Co-op, has opened its first store outside of Calgary in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona neighbourhood.

And more may come in the future.

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 of Community Natural Foods.

Community Natural Foods Edmonton (Image: Community Natural Foods)

The over 10,000-square-foot store offers a huge array of organic produce, meat, and dairy; a broad selection of grocery items for all dietary preferences; a large supplement and natural body care section; and a fresh juice, elixir, smoothie, and grab n’ go bar.

Ken Keelor

The store opened in an old Planet Organic space.

“It’s a very large space with great parking and access,” said 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.”

Calgary Co-op bought the Community Natural Foods brand about three years ago. Keelor said the brand was in need of a little bit of TLC (tender loving care).

“The previous owner had done an amazing job of creating a wonderful brand but it needed a bit of injection of modernization and change. So during the COVID time frame we took the downtown store and a lot of people were not coming to work, they were working from home. So business had dropped downtown anyway for all businesses,” he said.

“We took that opportunity to renovate that store. We did a bit of research on Community Natural Foods customers to understand their needs and we built new decor, new design and looked at the product mix and layout of the store. That work is now completed. We re-did the whole kitchen and cafe area. It’s beautiful. We put in some digital ordering screens and so on. There was a bit of technology injected as well.

Community Natural Foods Edmonton (Image: Community Natural Foods)

“On our radar of course is Crowfoot and Chinook (two other locations in Calgary) for some tuneups. Downtown has always been an iconic flagship store. Now those learnings have been applied in Edmonton but the advantage in Edmonton was that we had a new store to work with. It’s a lot harder to take an existing store and shuffle things around. This is a brand new store, empty, no product in there.

“So you’ll see a lot of things reflected. I would call it lighter, brighter, a more natural look to the store.

“Store design and decor really is an evolving process. Every time you touch a store you have a chance to reflect consumer needs.”

Keelor said Calgary Co-op is very focused on the needs of Calgary and surrounding areas.

“But we also looked at markets like Edmonton and we understand we can’t be Calgary Co-op in Edmonton but we do feel that Edmontonians do have some similar needs,” he said.

“And natural foods and natural care we feel there was a big opportunity in this marketplace. When I attended the opening of the store, there were lineups of people down the road . . . There was a massive need and in fact what we learned from that and those customers is that they appreciated us bringing the banner to Edmonton. Many of them had shopped in Calgary. And they were asking for more locations in Edmonton. So we now have to think about other locations potentially in the north areas like St. Albert where they might not be served.”

Community Natural Foods Edmonton (Image: Community Natural Foods)

Keelor said Community Natural Foods is prioritizing Edmonton-area and Alberta products. One of the first things it did was put the call out for more Edmonton-local brands.

Community Natural Foods was founded in 1977 with the intention of providing Calgarians with natural and organic food at a great price. In November 2019, Community Natural Foods was acquired by Calgary Co-op and is operated as a wholly owned subsidiary. 

“It’s exciting for Calgary Co-op and our member owners because as we expand in the markets beyond Calgary the net earnings from those businesses come back to our members as part of patronage and also get reinvested and continue to grow this co-op in a sustainable way,” added Keelor.

“Health and wellness is a very fast growing area. Traditional groceries, canned goods, baked goods, that’s not a growing area. So in order to sustain business it’s really important to grow, reflecting the trends of customers which health and wellness is a long-term trend. And Edmontonians are very focused on it too, just like the rest of the world.”

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.

Community Natural Foods Edmonton (Image: Community Natural Foods)

Keelor said the Willow Park brand has a presence in Edmonton but it’s also growing to Saskatoon in November after opening a second store recently in Regina.

“So businesses like Community Natural Foods, Willow Park Wines & Spirits, our pharmacy and home health care businesses, these are all growth businesses. We have to get beyond pure Calgary borders. It’s a great city and we’ll continue to very much be primarily focused here,” he said.

“But there’s opportunity across the Prairies, across the West, and potentially across Canada that we want to take advantage of in the long term as we diligently grow Calgary Co-op. We’re not going to have explosive growth but we’re going to grow with diligence.”

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.


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