Health food store may open next to Pasta Paradiso

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By Tris DeRoma

A Colorado-based developer is looking to build a Natural Grocers health-food store in the lot next to Pasta Paradiso on Trinity Drive, according to a permit application pending with the county Planning and Zoning Department.

The Los Alamos Shriners Club building on the property now will be torn down and rebuilt in a smaller configuration closer to Los Alamos Canyon, according to county development officials familiar with the proposal.

The Planning and Zoning Board will hold a public hearing Feb. 27 on the lot split for the grocery store and the Shriners Club at 1469 Trinity Drive.

The deal is a private sale between the owners of the Shriners Club property and Leadership Circle, LLC.

Some business owners contacted about the story were happy with the news and others were not.

Tim Morrison, manager of the Los Alamos Co-op, Los Alamos County’s only established health-food store located in Entrada Business Park, did not welcome the news.

“I would prefer Natural Grocers not to come in, but I don’t think the county has mechanisms to stop it that are fair or proper,” Morrison said.

Morrison also added they are already preparing for the approval.

“We are building up our cash reserves, working on customer service, product selection and all that, but it will be a tough go, there’s no two ways about it, “ he said.

Pasta Paradiso’s owner Renee Lee welcomed the news, saying it would bring more business to her restaurant and others.

“I’m thrilled, but I feel kind of bad for the Co-op,” Lee said. “Competition’s healthy, but in a town this small it can sometimes be overdone. Smith’s Marketplace already has a lot of health food.”

For Pasta Paradiso, a new neighbor could mean a more attractive landscape and lighting next door. Currently, the Shriners Club’s building is on a dirt lot with little lighting.

“I’m thrilled that they’re going to get rid of all that dirt and have a parking lot there…It’s going to help me so much,” Lee said.

The hearing will be about approving a lot split to accommodate the project according to officials.

Patrick Sullivan, executive director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation, said though they weren’t involved, more business is always a good thing for residents.

“There’s been a longstanding desire for residents to increase their retail options. Any project that works toward an increased variety of retail options and looks to redevelop some older sites with modern amenities is a good thing for your community,” Sullivan said.

As for the Los Alamos Co-op, Sullivan said it may help them and other businesses instead of hurt them.

“Competition is always a good thing. It helps businesses diversify their product line into what their customers want,” Sullivan said, adding that he believes Natural Grocers has a slightly different product line than the Co-op.