PITTSBURGH - Giant Eagle opened two "Market District" stores here last week, making it the latest retailer to expand its offerings with a greater emphasis on food service, upscale and specialty products, and theatrical presentations.
The concept, featuring a broad selection of organics, imported foods and culinary demonstrations, is new not only to Giant Eagle, but the community as well, spokesman Dan Donovan said.
"The combination of food enthusiast destination and full weekly shop make the Market District concept very unique in our geographical markets," he said. "There is a definite consumer trend toward specialty and unique foods, and no one can ignore the popularity of natural and organic offerings.
"With this in mind, we saw an opportunity to provide a destination store for food enthusiasts paired with the convenience of a full weekly [shop], including the completion of multiple errands such as prescription drugs and dry cleaning."
The move comes as specialty retailers Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's are expanding in the Pittsburgh market, as is discount giant Wal-Mart Stores. The concept parallels moves toward more upscale offerings by other traditional retailers, including Safeway, Marsh Supermarkets, A&P and, in some locations, Kroger.
Giant Eagle said it expects to attract customers from as far as neighboring states Ohio and West Virginia.
The Market District stores include a 68,000-square-foot location in the city's Shadyside neighborhood with 300 employees and an 117,000-square-foot store in the city's South Hills region with 500 employees, each having an open-air market feeling. The locations were remodeled existing stores, and they were chosen based on customer demographics and site availability.
The stores were developed to appeal to food enthusiasts who "enjoy taking part in and learning about all the many tastes and smells the world of food has to offer," Donovan said.
The stores employ more than 50 chefs, bakers and food professionals, including graduates from the Culinary Institute of America, the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and the Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh.
Expansion plans are not in the works just yet. "Right now, our focus is on making our two existing Market District stores as successful as possible," Donovan said. "Once we are comfortable with how these stores are performing, we will begin to evaluate opportunities to build additional Market District locations."
Market District also features promotions and weekly specials like typical Giant Eagle stores.
The new Market District departments include:
A Brazilian-style churrasco with fire-roasted meats and vegetables.
A charcuterie showcasing domestic and imported cured meats.
A 500-item kosher section and deli created with the guidance of rabbis.
A cheese department and cave with 400-plus domestic and imported choices.
A traditional pizza oven, sushi bar and authentic Italian dishes.
A fresh-fruit smoothie bar and coffee roasting station.
Nearly 5,000 specialty food products, and more than 4,000 natural, organic and gluten-free items.
An in-store bakery using traditional baking methods and a hearth oven.
A full-service meat and seafood department including hard-to-find selections such as rabbit, venison, quail and buffalo.
Cooking demonstrations, celebrity chef appearances, book signings, and live music and free Wi-Fi access in the Market District CafT.
The larger South Hills location allows for additional offerings, including a baby section, toys, office products and housewares, bulk foods, and a candy rotunda with freshly made fudge.