Eager shoppers poured into the newly opened New Pioneer Food Co-op in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday.
The store, 3338 Center Point Rd. NE, joins locations in Iowa City and Coralville. At about 10,000 square feet of retail space, it is similar in size to the Coralville location and offers a similar array of products.
Shoppers Judy Goldberg and Alisa Ajango, both of Cedar Rapids, were among the crowd browsing the shelves.
“We’ve been waiting for it to open here, so we wanted to be some of the first in the door,” Goldberg said.
She is already a member of the cooperative grocery store and said she is excited not to have to drive to Johnson County for the organic, local products sold at the store.
New Pi also announced Wednesday that it is changing the way membership benefits work. Until now, co-op members paid the listed price for items, while non-members paid an additional 5 percent surcharge.
That is changing after the store’s board of directors voted to drop the surcharge. Instead, members will get a 5 percent discount on certain local items marked with yellow “Get Local” tags, along with other deals.
Another change — the store hired Matt Steigerwald, the former head chef at Lincoln Winebar in Mount Vernon, to run the new location’s kitchen. He said he spent the last eight weeks learning the ropes and starting to develop new dishes.
For now, most of the prepared food in the store’s deli case and hot food bar, along with made-to-order sandwiches, are items customers familiar with the Johnson County stores will recognize.
However, a few new dishes like barbecue pulled pork and Asian black pepper and mint-roasted tofu curry filled the hot bar, with a few new salads in the deli case.
Steigerwald said he’ll introduce new dishes like these in Cedar Rapids to see what works. Food that goes over well in Linn County will then be introduced in Coralville and Iowa City.
Regular store hours for the Cedar Rapids location will start on Dec. 11 and mirror the locations in Iowa City and Coralville: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.