RICHMOND, Va. -- Ukrop's Super Markets here is targeting a late-summer opening for a new, small-format, neighborhood market with a focus on fresh foods, according to officials with the independent retailer.
The 12,000-square-foot store will occupy a space formerly occupied by a Rite Aid drugstore, a prime retail location smack in the middle of Richmond's toney West End. The site is adjacent to a row of upscale, trendy boutiques bordering one of the city's oldest and highest-income residential areas.
The development of the spin-off concept was announced by Bobby Ukrop, the chain's president and chief executive officer, at a recent luncheon of the Grocery Manufacturers Representatives Association of Richmond, where he was guest speaker.
"Joe's will be a dynamic market with a unique combination of products and services that will offer customers greater convenience and a heightened level of service," Ukrop said of the concept, which will be called Joe's Market, after the family-owned chain's founder, Joseph Ukrop.
Ukrop pointed out that Joe's Market will include a branch of First Market Bank, which is owned by Ukrop's, and a Ukrop's pharmacy, as well as a carefully selected mix of convenience items, prepared foods, bread and pastries, natural and organic products, fresh meat and seafood, fresh flowers and a street-side cafe.
"The cafe will create an inviting neighborhood gathering place for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Ukrop added.
The area is not currently served by any supermarket chains that are Ukrop's competitors, and the Joe's site lies midway between two of Ukrop's traditional supermarkets. Neither of them, however, has both a bank and a pharmacy. So the convenience of one-stop shopping in a small footprint, as well as both take-out and eat-in fresh food, is part of the new format's panache.
One local observer said he expects Ukrop's to succeed where other chains have failed with similar concepts.
"This is going to be a slam dunk," said Brian Salus, president, Salus & Associates, a consulting firm in Midlothian, Va., and the retailer's one-time director of food service.
In an earlier interview, Jackie Legg, Ukrop's vice president of solution shopping, stressed that the chain's owners -- Bobby and James Ukrop -- are extraordinarily customer-conscious.
"We do our own research and try to give customers what they want," Legg said, explaining that constant change at Ukrop's reflects response to customers, not response to competitive forces. [see "Richmond Campaign," SN, March 15, 1999].
Ukrop's is no stranger to urban concepts. It operated a Fresh Express deli/restaurant in downtown Richmond, but closed it in 1999 after a six-year run, replacing it with a branch of First Market Bank. The downtown location worked against Fresh Express, which enjoyed a hearty lunch business but saw little activity in the evening.
On a visit to Richmond shortly before Fresh Express closed, SN was witness to its booming lunch volume. The 6,000-square-foot, L-shaped unit attracted local professionals and office workers with the variety of fresh, prepared foods it offered, but it was situated in a strictly business area with no residences nearby, and as one Richmond resident put it, "At 5 o'clock, people want to get the heck out of the city."
That will not be the case at the Joe's Market location, where people live nearby, and there is day-long and evening-long foot traffic in the area. Boutiques, restaurants, and two of Richmond's top private schools are in the area, making for constant activity. The University of Richmond campus also is only a couple of miles away.
While Ukrop's officials haven't said Joe's Market is the first of more to come, industry sources speculate that this is a prototype that could be duplicated in other nearby communities. At any rate, the chain's owners always appear to take something positive away from any company venture.
When Ukrop's closed Fresh Express, Bobby Ukrop said, "We still think that opening this location was strategically a sound investment, as Fresh Express has introduced many customers to our many fresh food offerings." [see"Ukrop's Stops Fresh Express, Will Plant a Bank Branch," SN, March 8, 1999].