The is growing in a big way.
It's expanding into the former paint store next door, where it plans to establish a cafe and food-service counters with a variety of natural meals and snacks that can be eaten on the premises or picked up to go.
"Basically we're going to be able to offer all the things we haven't been able to offer in the store," said Robin Valerie Low, the Natural Grocery's project developer for the expansion.
That includes a cafe with espresso drinks and tea, a bakery section, made-to-order and ready-made sandwiches, fresh pizza, salads, a cheese shop, a wine and beer shop, and an ice cream counter. There'll also be rotisserie chicken and daily "blue plate special" meals, Low said.
A lot of renovation and seismic work needs to be done to the space, formerly a Sherwin-Williams paint store, Low said.
The new wing is not expected to open until January of next year, said Low, who owned the French-style Post Meridian restaurant on Colusa Circle for five years until it closed a year a ago.
The new facility will be called the "Annex," not only because it will be an extension of the grocery but also because the new space, like the grocery, is located in a part of Richmond called Richmond Annex. The mailing address of the grocery – which sits on the west side of San Pablo Avenue at the intersection with Stockton Avenue – is in El Cerrito and the store's front sidewalk is El Cerrito. But the city boundary runs between the sidewalk and the building, putting the grocery itself in Richmond.
"It is an annex to the grocery store, but it's also the Richmond Annex," Low said. "So it's a nice nod to them."
Perhaps the most striking element of the expansion so far is the steel trellis recently built connecting the two buildings. It's for solar panels to supply green power.
"We wanted to link the two buildings," Low said. "We need a visual link." She said the business also wanted to lower its carbon footprint in a visible way.
"With this new addition, we're quadrupling our solar power," she said. "... We really wanted to be an example and encouragement to other people to have them consider installing solar power."
Preliminary drawings of the interior of the Annex have been posted in the window of the new space. There will be two entrances, a main one facing San Pablo Avenue and a secondary one for those entering from the rear parking lot.
Seating in the front windows will provide a view of the El Cerrito hills, Low said.
The employee-owned Natural Grocery Company has been in El Cerrito since 1988. It has an older-sister branch on Gilman Street in Berkeley.
Among additional offerings being considered for the Annex are school lunches to go, cheese-tastings, a flower stand with cut and potted plants, and a massage chair, Low said.
Also planned is specialty hot chocolate at the cafe, thanks to General Manager and company founder Bob Gerner.
"Bob is really excited about having multiple flavors of hot chocolate – Mexican, Peruvian," Low said. "It's all natural of course."
For a glimpse of what the Annex might look at, attached to this article are preliminary drawings of the Annex – some photographed in the window and some provided by Low.