Look for Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, an organic and natural foods grocery store based in Colorado, to open in Longview in the next 12 to 18 months.

Co-president Kemper Isely said the business has been exploring the market for a couple of years and has identified possible locations.

"The city has a high percentage of college-educated people in it. It has a demographic that profiles very well to the demographic that shops at our stores, and it is pretty underserved as far as natural foods go," he said. "We've come into several cities that are the size of Longview in Texas that have had a couple of independent stores and our stores have been well-received in those cities."

Natural Grocers is opening a store in late March at 4820 S. Broadway Ave. in Tyler, according to a Jan. 11 story in the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

Isely said Natural Grocers stores are about 15,000 square feet and all the produce they carry is USDA Certified Organic

"That's a huge difference (from a typical grocery store). You don't have to go find it," he said.

Meats are from organically raised animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones. Among other standards, chickens are fed a vegetarian diet.

The produce departments sells only organically grown products, and shoppers won't find any grocery products that contain artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or trans fats.

In the dairy section, Natural Grocers sells only pasture-based products, which means the animals must have access to pasture at least 120 days out of the year and a majority of their food is from forage.

Stores also feature a supplements section, body care and household goods departments, and pet items.

The stores also hire a nutritional health coach who educates the store's staff about nutrition.

"One of our founding principals is to sell our products at affordable prices," Isely said.

Natural Grocers was founded in 1955 by Margaret and Philip Isely. It employs more than 2,000 people, with locations in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming

Robert's Coffee expansion

Longview-based Robert's Coffee and Vending Service has expanded outside of Texas with the recent purchase of Custom Food Group of Texarkana.

The acquisition was completed in December, with the purchase of the Custom Food Group's office and warehouse in Texarkana expected to close in February, said Robert Crawley, who owns Robert's Coffee with his wife, Jo Ann. The business' service area now extends from Lufkin to Ashdown, Arkansas.

"We're just in a growing mode," Robert Crawley said.

All five Custom Food Group employees are now with his company, Crawley said, including longtime manager Danny Brush. Brush will continue to run operations in the Texarkana area.

"Hopefully, we'll be adding (more employees) in the future," Crawley said. His business now has 27 employees.

Robert's Coffee and Vending Service has been in business for 28 years, starting in the Crawleys' home.

Shopping center updates

A $1.1 million improvement project is underway in the Northwest Village shopping center at Loop 281 and Gilmer Road.

The city of Longview in December issued a building permit for the work to Transet Co. in Longview. The permit was for work to the former Hobby Lobby and Stein Mart locations in the shopping center. (Hobby Lobby previously relocated in Longview, while Stein Mart closed.) The work consists of re-roofing and providing new heating and air conditioning units and concrete, mechanical, electrical and plumbing work.

Grant Gary, president of brokerage services for the commercial real estate firm that markets the center, The Woodmont Company, said he could not provide any specifics about the project or potential tenants, citing "confidentiality provisions."

Boutique to open

Bushel and a Peck Boutique will open Tuesday in Suite 5 of the Poste Haste shopping center at 414 W. Loop 281 in Longview.

Lynda Callahan, who owns the business with her granddaughter Nicole Dukett, said she had been in business for years as L&M Sales at festivals. The business' first store opened in October as Grannie's Workshop on Eastman Road, Callahan said. They moved the business to a better location and changed the name, she said.

The boutique features ladies and children's clothing, boots, western belts, fleece blankets, jewelry, decorative crosses and other items.

Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

- Business Beat appears Sunday. If you have items for the column, email to newstip@news-journal.com; mail to Business Section, Longview News-Journal, P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606; or call (903) 237-7744.