GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- D&W Food Centers has opened a full-service Starbucks Coffee operation -- the first Starbucks in town -- inside one of its stores here and more will follow, D&W officials said.
The 26-unit independent, a supermarket pioneer in the prepared foods arena, will open Starbucks operations inside four additional units in metro Grand Rapids by the year's end. More are planned for the future, but the wheres and whens haven't been determined yet, said Ron Cox, the retailer's vice president of marketing.
The addition of a coffee bar is an appropriate complement to the supermarket chain's successful cafe areas because it provides a needed service to customers, and the Starbucks brand is an important part of the equation, D&W officials believe.
"We met with several organizations, but we felt that, both from a brand recognition standpoint and from the breadth of their program, this arrangement was best suited to what we were looking for," said Cox.
He also sees Starbucks as a magnet that could bring new customers into the store.
"Starbucks has the name that will attract a particular kind of customer looking for their product, and such a quality operation certainly complements everything else we're doing in the food-service area."
The coffee bar is situated in the front corner, just inside the door of D&W's cafe which has its own entrance. Occupying approximately 300 to 400 square feet, the bar is comparable to one of Starbucks' smaller, stand-alone, full-service formats. A full menu of freshly brewed coffee, espresso-based drinks and Tazo teas is offered. So are Starbucks pastries, 12-ounce bags of whole-bean and ground coffee, and a limited selection of other Starbucks merchandise.
The D&W unit here was chosen for the inaugural coffee bar because Starbucks deemed the demographics to be best for its debut. The 52,000-square-foot store sits right next to a large, corporate office park that's bordered by a residential section.
At this time, D&W's newly brewed relationship with Seattle-based Starbucks is its only co-branding venture in food service. A link-up with Manhattan Bagel, Eatontown, N.J., ended last year. This first Starbucks at D&W, which opened last month, occupies space that was originally dedicated to Manhattan Bagel and, more recently, to a local bagel retailer.
While it will now manage its own bagel program in its in-store bakery, D&W decided against building its own coffee bar concept because it sees a well-known brand offering as an extra plus, Cox explained.
"Right now the Grand Rapids market is underserved from a national [coffee] brand standpoint. We don't have any Starbucks or Seattle's Best or Caribou Coffee, so it was an opportunity for us," Cox said, and explained further why the link-up with Starbucks makes sense.
"If there's someone out there doing a very good job of it, and there's a chance to partner with them, it's a great way to go, rather than having to build a brand yourself. We felt we'd be better off with an established brand," Cox said.
D&W has become a Starbucks licensee so the relationship is a franchise-type arrangement, Cox noted.
"In fact, we're treating it almost as a separate business," he said.
The staff is made up of D&W employees dedicated to the operation. Cherie Ludwiczuk, formerly food-service merchandiser for the supermarket chain, was named manager of the Starbucks operation.
Weeks before the opening, banners on the front of the D&W unit heralded the imminent arrival of Starbucks in the store's cafe area. Inside the cafe, a tear-strip sign provided a countdown, showing how many days remained until the Starbucks launch. Also, an insert in the weekly circular distributed at the store announced that the first 50 Starbucks customers would get a free cup of the famous brew.
When the day came, the much-anticipated opening got some exposure on local television. TV personality Gerry Barnaby, on behalf of the local NBC-TV affiliate, was there for the 6 a.m. opening with a camera crew in tow.