Wild Oats Founders Launch New Low-Price Natural Format

DENVER - The founders of Wild Oats Markets have collected their favorite qualities from competitors to create Sunflower Market, a new low-priced natural foods prototype, the Denver Post reports.

Mike Gilliland, who departed Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats in 2001 after growing the company to more than 100 stores, told the paper: "The shtick is to kind of be half farmer's market and the best of Trader Joe's."

Sunflower, which will make its Colorado debut in about a month in a revamped 30,000-square-foot location in University Hills, opened its first store in Albuquerque a year ago. Since then two Sunflower stores have opened in the Phoenix area.

The paper said Sunflower will focus on the Southwest, with plans for six Denver-area stores in two years.

Admittedly borrowing heavily from Trader Joe's and comparing the store's look to Costco, Gilliland was quoted as saying: "They're nice stores, but we don't spend a lot on fancy fixtures. We're building the (Denver) store for less than $1 million."

At roughly 30,000 to 60,000 square feet, Sunflower Markets, which are considerably larger than the average 11,000-square-foot Trader Joe's stores, reportedly feature a larger array of produce and other branded perishables.
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