RICHMOND, Va. -- Community Pride Food Stores here is getting ready to roll out two more refurbished units in the company's feature-laden Plus format.
When the Richmond-area stores open sometime in February, the company will complete a public/private partnership trifecta that began with the opening of the first Community Pride Plus unit just before Thanksgiving. The urban stores will represent the fruition of a project that brought the company together with the City of Richmond; Virginia Power, a utility company; Crestar Bank; and Consolidated Bank.
The company told SN last week that the format, which includes an added bakery; expanded, more-upscale hot food and deli programs; a gourmet, ready-to-serve food section; market-style fresh seafood department; and expanded imported-wine section, is quickly catching on with consumers.
"Sales have been up 25% a day and one day sales were up 78%. It's extremely successful," said Cynthia Johnson-Thompson, vice president of research and development for Community Pride.
The project was initiated by Johnny Johnson, the company's president and chief executive officer, who applied for and received a $400,000 city grant that was used to help offset construction costs (the project's pricetag was not available), Johnson-Thompson said. She said the premise for applying for the grant was that the project would yield hundreds of local jobs while enhancing the inner city with cutting-edge supermarkets that offer everything from exotic produce to full-service, in-store banking.
Johnson, she said, told the city that a certain number of jobs would be set aside for public-assistance recipients -- a proposal she said was made before municipalities nationwide, including Richmond, began instituting welfare-reform measures. However, Johnson-Thompson did not hesitate to point out that the privately owned company's motives are not entirely altruistic.
"Mr. [Johnny] Johnson is very much aware of the competition and that bringing these stores up to this level is necessary if you want to compete with the bigger companies in the industry," she said.
Currently, the closest stores that are comparable to the Plus format are in the suburbs. Like the Plus store that already opened, the two that are pending will feature a Crestar Bank and new, energy-efficient refrigeration and lighting systems paid for and installed by Virginia Power. Consolidated Bank, which handles Community Pride's corporate accounts, supported the project by encouraging the city to approve the grant request, Johnson-Thompson said.