The natural foods store on San Pablo Avenue plans to open its new facility in October.
When it does, products that customers like to buy in the grocery store will be served, ready to eat and drink, in the annex.
“All the things that can’t fit in our store will be over there,” said Veena Patel, communications and community relations specialist for the grocery store.
The annex with 7,000 square feet will be larger than the store. It’ll feature, among other things, freshly baked pizza, a salad bar, fresh pastries, a florist, a beer and wine room and two delis -- one for vegetarians and one for meat eaters.
“We’ll be more than just a retail outlet,” said Patel.
The annex will be employing 65 people and the company is in the midst of a hiring frenzy.
The new store has been a year and a half in the making, leaving some in town to wonder what has taken so long.
“When they come inside, they’ll see why,” said Patel. “This wasn’t a rush job.”
The company installed solar panels between the two buildings. They also had to upgrade the electrical system because of the ovens and other heavy appliances.
They redid the parking lot in the back, providing 30 off-street spaces for customers. There will also be 14 one-hour, on-street parking spaces near the annex.
The company also took over two homes nearby to use as office space.
The El Cerrito store was opened in 1988 by Bob Gerner, the company’s founder and general manager. Gerner opened the original Berkeley outlet in 1981.
Over the decades, the El Cerrito store became well known for selling organic fruits and vegetables as well as healthy nuts, beans, dairy products and meat.
In early 2012, Gerner decided to expand his operations. He took over the old Sherwin-Williams paint store next door with the idea of building a place where customers could shop and eat.
He installed Robin Low as the project coordinator. After the annex opens, she’ll be the executive chef.
Company officials are confident the new annex will be a success.
“There’s a demand for quality food here,” said Patel.