New grocery store planned for spring 2023 in Incline

A Natural Grocers natural foods and vitamins store is scheduled to open in the spring of 2023 in Incline Village.

The lot on Lake Tahoe Boulevard was once filled with small businesses, including Susie Scoops and Village Toys, which relocated down the street, and Wildflower Cafe, which shut down in 2018. Additionally, the approval of the store comes as the Village Market closed at the end of October.

Prior to opening, the old buildings on the lot must be razed before construction of the new buildings and parking lot can happen.

The Natural Grocers will be constructed in the lot that has been vacant for almost a year.
Miranda Jacobson/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Washoe County Commissioner Alexis Hill said that while losing the store is heartbreaking in the small community, there’s always room for positive change.

“I do think having a Natural Grocers [will provide] additional options for people to grocery shop in Incline Village,” Hill said. “This development is following all of the new Tahoe Regional Planning Agency guidelines, so it’s going to be much better for lake clarity and the environment long term to have this as well.”

The opening of the new store sheds light on a larger scale problem that has taken over the nation. Although the store will be a new option at Tahoe, the worker shortage and housing crisis are still prevalent in the basin, with rent and cost of living rising in Incline Village and many possible employees unable to live in the area.

A housing study done by the Tahoe Prosperity Center found that in Washoe County, there has been a major loss of core employees due to the price of living in the area, and as a result, many businesses have had to reduce their services and hours. Additionally, there has been a drop in high school students in the workforce and pending retirement from an aging workforce.

Without a steady influx and outflux of workers, there’s worry from employers about “their ability to replace the outgoing staff and compete for the skilled, quality workers needed to fill positions,” according to the Washoe Tahoe Local Employee Housing Needs and Opportunities report.

“You want people who work in your community to be able to live in your community,” Hill said. “What came out of the housing study is we’re going to create workforce housing. We’ll come up with a strategic plan on how we want to proceed over the next five to six years.”

This action plan will address the affordable housing crisis in Incline Village in hopes that getting a more diverse population of ages in the area will bring back businesses and even out the workforce once again.

Natural Grocers’ recognizes that in this current time, employees need more than minimum wage to survive.

“We are passionate about ensuring that our “good4u Crew” members are able to live a healthy, balanced life and as such we provide our employees with competitive wages and a comprehensive benefits package,” said Director of Public Relations Pamela Lipshitz.

Recently, wages at Natural Grocers were raised for an average full time-crew member to make $18.43 an hour, with boosted entry-level positions ranging from $14-$18. Within the position, there are a number of benefits including $1 per hour of Vitamin Bucks, which gives employees discounts, and helps with the purchases of supplements, groceries, body care, and more. Additionally, there are options within employment to fast track career advancement opportunities and programs for career growth through paid nutrition education, advancement opportunities and career development.

“We believe for all of those reasons, in addition to the value we add to the community with high quality groceries at our always affordable prices,” said Lipshitz. “Natural Grocers in Incline Village will be an attractive workplace for many in the community.”

According to its website, Natural Grocers was founded in 1955 has 162 stores mostly in the western United States. It supports the “health and wellbeing of our communities” through its five founding principals, nutrition education, quality, always affordable prices, community and its good4u Crew.

Although the worker and housing crises have Incline Village and other communities in a hold at the moment, there’s no telling where the small community will be by the spring of 2023.

Many business owners, including Cape House seafood restaurant owner Rick Boyd, are interested to see where the next five years will take the town.

For one, Boyd noted sometimes it’s hard to introduce something new into a town that has been set in it’s ways for over 25 years.

“A lot of the people in Incline Village have been living there for 25 to 30 years,” Boyd said. “They’re stuck in their ways sometimes, and it can be a little difficult to get them to recognize that there is something new in town. I think we’re coming to a transition point.”

New businesses opening in vacant buildings shines a light on another problem that Boyd said many future restaurant owners may run into. With the closing of many businesses like the Village Market, which opens up the building, new owners may face setbacks.

“It’s going to take a long time for those things to come back because of the lack of modern infrastructure in town,” Boyd said, and explained that updating the older buildings to present day codes and requirements may come at a high cost. “It’s going to be interesting to see what the next five years look like.”

Miranda Jacobson is a staff writer with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun

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