SN profiles four independents who are building bigger and better stores.
As the National Grocers Association convenes its Annual Convention and Supermarket Synergy Showcase in Las Vegas this week, SN takes a closer look at four independents that are defying the economic downturn and forging ahead with bold new stores.
The profiles on the following pages examine four independent operators — two in Wilmington, Del., and two in the Provo, Utah, area — that are stepping out of their comfort zones and experimenting with large, full-service supermarkets in new territories.
“We're ready, willing and able to grow, and we are looking for opportunities where we can expand our base of stores,” said Grant McLoughlin, executive vice president at The Fresh Grocer, the Drexel Hill, Pa.-based independent that late last year expanded into Wilmington, Del., with its flagship banner.
The new store is just a short distance from an even larger ShopRite location opened in December by Kenny Family ShopRites of Delaware, marking that independent's first new store ever. That 70,000-square-foot supermarket is being touted as a state-of-the-art endeavor catering to a broad demographic mix encompassing both urban professionals and low-income consumers.
In Salem, Utah, one small, family-run operator is preparing to triple its existing square footage with a 42,000-square-foot store. Crisp Grocery currently operates a single 17,000-square-foot location in Monroe, Utah.
“The whole idea [of the new store] is to offer the same variety as any jumbo-sized store, but to do it with our own kind of small-town, friendly service in a more pleasant environment, without that warehouse feel,” said Michele Crisp, who helps run the family business.
About 30 minutes away in Provo, Utah, another independent just last week expanded with its largest store ever — a 65,000-square-foot, full-service Buy Low. The store is the fifth in the Buy Low chain, which operates three stores in Southern California and one in Las Vegas.
Although the current credit climate makes it more difficult for businesses to obtain financing for such projects, in many cases their wholesalers can help, according to Dick King, vice president at Associated Food Stores, Salt Lake City, the cooperative that supplies both Crisp's and the new Buy Low.
“Associated Food Stores has just spent the last seven or eight years on a capital reformation program, [so now] there's more money available to the independents,” he said. “They are able to borrow from us at low interest rates, or we can help them get bank loans.”