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Outpost looking to add more indoor, outdoor seating

Changes would come during larger remodeling effort

April 13, 2011

Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry. That's one of the pieces of wisdom passed down to generations of consumers.

But it seems many of the people buying food at Outpost Natural Foods, 7000 W. State St., do just that.

To accommodate the people who just couldn't wait to dig in to their new-bought treats or those that stop in specifically for a quick lunch, the food cooperative wants to expand its indoor and outdoor seating options.

The Plan Commission on Monday unanimously supported enclosing a 280-square-foot section at the front of the store to accommodate an indoor seating area. Plans next go to the Community Development Committee for consideration April 26.

"We already have a seating crunch inside, especially when the weather is not so great outside," said Lisa Malmarowski, director of brand and store development during an interview after the meeting.

Remodeling also will open up space toward the front of the shop. The added interior space will allow Tosa employees to hold free workshops, such as cooking demonstrations and nutrition lectures, which have proven popular at the cooperative's other stores, General Manager Pam Mehnert said.

In addition, a few new outdoor seats would be placed right in front of the enclosed area. But the majority of the outdoor seating - for about 16 people - would be found on a new patio at the west corner of the property. The patio would provide a shaded setting with a permeable foundation and landscaping features to keep it natural looking, Malmarowski said.

Several people showed up to question the plans, but found their concerns were unfounded. The Community Development Department sent a map highlighting the Outpost property to neighbors. That map showed the property extending out into the street, so people believed the proposed expansion was to be much larger than it is.

Mayor Jill Didier apologized for the confusion and told the audience that the exterior changes were minor.

The commission only gets involved with the exterior changes to the building. However, the majority of changes will occur during a summer remodeling that will be the first significant changes since the store opened 11 years ago.

Outpost needs new display equipment, which has come a long way in energy and space efficiency in the past decade, Malmarowski said. She expects to increase the number of product offerings in areas such as produce, dairy and prepared meals. A salad bar, hot bar and pizzas-to-go are in the plans. The store will remain open for business during the remodeling.

The cooperative has nearly 16,000 members with the State Street location ranking as its busiest store. However, people don't have to become a member to shop for groceries or buy lunch, she said.

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