Gig Harbor grocery shoppers are about to see their choices expand, all while participating in an industry experiment that could carry nationwide implications.
On Wednesday, Kroger will introduce its new Main & Vine supermarket concept at the site of its former QFC outlet. Also on Wednesday, Safeway will open its refurbished store nearby, this after a brief interlude as a Haggen store that later closed after a failed expansion effort by the chain.
A NEW CONCEPT
“It’s coming along. We’ve got another week,” said Dann Kohl, store manager at Main & Vine, earlier this week.
He repeats the brand mantra several times during a tour of the fully redesigned and reimagined store.
“Local, fresh, natural, organic,” he said, once and then again.
“Community focus — that’s what we’ll be hanging our hats on,” he said.
Shoppers entering the store will first see the Main & Vine Event Center, home to cooking demonstrations, food and beverage tastings and ideas and ingredients related to a program that asks (and answers) the question, “What’s for Dinner Tonight?”
Prepared foods will be available at the Gig Harbor Kitchen and the Grab & Go Wall, which is not to be confused with the Living Wall, which presents a green vertical garden of maybe 400 live, decorative but inedible native plants “to tie us back to nature,” as Kohl said.
Among the prepared foods, shoppers will find fresh-daily dumplings, sushi, focaccia pizza, bagels and pretzels. There’s a pick-your-own-greens, pick-your-own protein salad counter, and a pan-Asian chef’s station, and there’s a two-level Brew and Blend cafe that will feature Cutters Point Coffee products as well as tastings of beer, wine and spirits. There’s also Wi-Fi and each table will offer charging stations.
At the Surprise & Delight center, there might be an exclusive olive oil one day, and a regional cheese the next. If you’re wondering why Kroger spent strong money for the imported, hand-cranked, gravity-fed Tanara Giancarlo meat slicer (for your prosciutto, for instance), it’s because typical electrical meat slicers create friction, and the friction creates heat, and who wants heated prosciutto?
At the adult beverage section, 50 percent of the beer, 30 percent of the wine and 17 percent of the spirits are locally produced, said Heather Fitzpatrick, department team leader.
The former QFC false ceiling has been removed to display exposed beams, and natural light flows from windows. There will be no plastic bags to contain your purchases for the drive home. It’s paper-only at the checkout counter.
“It’s a new-concept market. It’s huge for us,” Kohl said.
When opened, the store will employ 110 workers.
“The Northwest was chosen for this concept,” Kohl said. “We have farmers as partners, local purveyors. The town itself is a good fit, with a Northwest focus.
“This is the first one,” he said. “After the grand opening we’ll get back together and decide if this is something to move forward with.”
Main & Vine will offer 10,000 SKUs, or individual product codes, not available at other Kroger stores, Kohl said.
And if you can’t find the product you’re looking for in the Nourished Living section (vitamins, supplements, bath salts, protein powder, various lotions and such), you can order it and have it delivered to your home.
Home delivery of grocery products is a future possibility, Kohl said. “It’s something down the line. We will be looking at it.”
THE GROCERY EXPERT
“All grocery retailers are experimenting with different formats,” said Meg Major, chief content editor of the industry publication Progressive Grocer.
“I think it’s a logical experiment,” she said. “It remains to be seen if it will be rolled out to other markets — or will it be unique to your market?”
The location of the store, she said, “is a good experimental market for Kroger to launch this format.”
“If you’re standing still you’re moving backwards,” she said. “Kroger has a good background for operating stores that are unique to marketplaces. You have to build a mousetrap with regard to what’s going to have strong appeal to shoppers. It’s good to have a few different formats in your arsenal. New food stores get local consumers excited. Affordable indulgences are very in vogue right now.”
Citing the recent debacle with Haggen entering then leaving markets in the West, Major said the Kroger experiment is “a breath of fresh air in a market that has been beaten up.”
One business leader in Gig Harbor has enjoyed breathing that fresh air.
“We are so blessed that they have chosen this community to introduce the new Kroger look,” said Pat Schmidt, past chairwoman of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce and current president of the Downtown Waterfront Alliance.
“It will be something we’ve never seen before,” she said. “We had the Haggen solution that didn’t go over very well, and then Safeway coming back in. I think that our local Fred Meyer has done exceptionally well.
“People are thrilled. They are so excited for February 3. We have two wonderful grocery options that have not been available for over six months. The whole community is so looking forward to next week.
“It’s an exciting time,” Schmidt said. “And it’s about time.”
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535
If you go
Main & Vine will open Wednesday at 7 a.m. at 5010 Point Fosdick Drive NW. The first 250 guests will receive a commemorative Main & Vine gift bag.
Safeway has also timed its reopening for Feb. 3 at its location in Point Fosdick Square. The store will open at 8 a.m. at 4831 Point Fosdick Drive NW.