If crowds waiting through a near-hour-long grand opening ceremony are any indication of support, the celebration Wednesday morning at New Leaf Community Markets' dedication of its new store in Pleasanton bodes well for future success.
It's been years since cars and crowds filled the parking lot at the Vintage Hills Center, a once nearly dormant center where its only anchor store, Romley's Supermarket, closed 15 years ago.
Now New Leaf, a Santa Cruz-based grocer that specializes in organic meats, food, produce and other products, has opened its doors with a festive opening day ceremony that included live music by the Four & More combo, speeches by city and civic leaders, and welcoming statements from the store's owners.
Scott Roseman, who with his partner Rex Stewart opened their first grocery store in Santa Cruz in 1985, and Pleasanton store manager Mark McKinney told a cheering crowd that not only will New Leaf feature top quality organics, but that the store will contribute 10% of its profits each year to local nonprofit organizations.
"It's something we've done from the start with a pledge that our success should also be shared with the community," Roseman said.
New Leaf also initiated a profit-sharing plan for its employees in its first year of operation, which continues today for its 500 employees at New Leaf markets in Santa Cruz, Capitola, Half Moon Bay and San Jose.
McKinney said 95 employees have been hired for the Pleasanton store, who also will benefit from New Leaf's profit-sharing and health care policies.
"What really caught my eye as I studied up on New Leaf before coming to this grand opening today is what a great partner these folks have with the communities they're in," said Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne, a keynote speaker at Wednesday's ceremonies.
"They give a share of their profits to local nonprofit organizations, but they also showcase a Community Day six times a year where they donate 5% of their gross sales for that day to a selected nonprofit in the community," he added. "This store will also sponsor a food bank during the holiday season.
"So we're very pleased when a business like this comes to our city and demonstrates from the start Pleasanton's Community of Character trait."
Shoppers, New Leaf and city leaders weren't the only ones celebrating Wednesday. Other tenants in the once nearly abandoned Vintage Hills Center applauded the new vitality an anchor store will bring to their business complex.
New Leaf's 19,000-square-foot store all but fills the center, where diverse businesses, ranging from Hair Cuttery and Vintage Hills Cleaners to a popular yogurt shop and the Coffee Ali coffee shop, are major tenants. It was the determination of the cleaners and styling shop owners to stay in Vintage Hills, along with the support of their long-time customers, that was mostly responsible for keeping the center from the wrecking balls, which some city leaders and investor James Tong wanted to tear down to make way for apartment buildings.
Today, the only vacancy is next door to New Leaf where a dance studio recently closed. Commercial real estate agents predict it won't be long before a retailer signs a lease for what has now become premium retail space in Pleasanton.
New Leaf Markets in Pleasanton will be open every day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.