What is in this article?:
- Roche Bros. makes a move in dynamic Boston market
- 'Break all the rules'
"This is an exciting time for our company.”
—PAUL McGILLIVRAY, Roche Bros.
Developing a reputation as a destination for categories such as coffee has helped Roche Bros. stores distinguish themselves among new market entrants.
Although the greater Boston market has seen no shortage of activity among supermarkets in recent years, things have been relatively quiet at Roche Bros.
But that’s changing. It turns out that while Whole Foods and Wegmans were invading, Market Basket expanding, and Shaw’s being sold and repositioned, family-run Roche Bros. was quietly at work developing concepts designed to address the market that’s changed around it — as well as a changing shopper.
The company next week is set to open the second location — and officials say, the most fully realized — of the Brothers Marketplace specialty food store concept it debuted in May. Earlier this month, Roche began construction of a new flagship at the site of the historic Filene’s Basement department store in downtown Boston. That store, likely to become the highest-profile unit for the upscale chain, is expected to open early next year.
For a company that had not opened a new store in some five years, this is a sudden flurry of activity.
“Overall I’d say this is an exciting time for our company,” Paul McGillivray, VP of sales andfor Roche Bros., told SN in an exclusive interview at Roche Bros.’ Wellesley, Mass., headquarters. “Based on the recession, economic conditions, the level of competition in the marketplace and the churn, it’s been a period first and foremost of protecting the long-term success of the business. And since we’ve done that successfully, we’re now out looking for new opportunities.”
The next Roche Bros. conventional supermarket to be built will be new to its neighborhood but in a familiar destination for retail.
Workers this month commenced construction of a 25,000-square-foot Roche Bros. at the historic Burnham Building in Downtown Crossing. The store will consist of 3,000 feet at street level and 22,000 square feet occupying the historic Filene’s Basement, the beloved but defunct Boston department store.
The project is part of a massive redevelopment including construction of a neighboring residential tower and new retail tenants including the European fashion retailer Primark, which has chosen the site for its first U.S. store.
“We’re privileged to be taking over such a landmark iconic retail location,” McGillivray said. “It’s a very well-known historic location, and the basement especially. Most people who grew up in the Boston areas have some kind of connection to it. Every person you say ‘Filene’s Basement’ to has a story.”
McGillivray said the store’sand features would “pay some homage” to Filene’s — most famous for its bargain wedding-gown sales known as “the running of the brides.” But the store will mainly serve to help to legitimize a new profile for Downtown Crossing, which is seeing millions invested toward shedding its old identity as a department store hub in favor of a modern city residential neighborhood with appeal to young professionals and others embracing an emerging urban lifestyle.
Located at the intersection of two subway lines and at what the company described as the “most heavily trafficked corner in Boston,” the store will have access from the subway. McGillivray said the tight spaces present challenges for designers and engineers to make the most of the selling space and facilitate the store for deliveries.
Inside, Roche Bros. will endeavor to provide “a curated assortment of merchandise suited to the unique needs of the downtown customer, from prepared food, flowers and artisan cheeses to household basics.”
Accompanying a trend toward downtown living is a larger shift in the way people shop, Roche officials say, reflecting an appetite for foods that are pure, local and adventurous; and stores that can facilitate new patterns of convenience. This was the mission leading to the introduction of Brothers Marketplace.
Although the Brothers Marketplace banner debuted in Weston, Mass., this spring, officials say the full expression of the new brand will be revealed upon the opening July 30 in Medfield, Mass. (That is the site where the concept has been under development for years; Weston, McGillivray said, resulted from a sudden real estate opportunity that allowed the company to roll out certain aspects of the concept that were ready to go). Medfield, McGillivray said, “is the real test.
“This is a store based on the way people are shopping,” he explained. “More frequently. Fewer big trips. More focus on fresh, prepared foods and convenience. This store tries to hit on all those trends.”
The task of developing the Brothers Marketplace concept went to Aimee Morgida, Roche Bros.’ director of operations. To say she’s enthusiastic about the project is putting it mildly.
“We started with a blank piece of paper,” she said. “We started going on trips, began to talk about it, and began to live it. Now here we are.
“Who gets to open up a business of your own creation, allowing you to draw on the resources and the talent of a whole company to help you realize that dream?” she added.