Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Independent Kendall Yards grocer will be cheaper than Whole Foods — but don't expect Grocery Outlet

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 4:14 PM

click to enlarge Greenstone Homes CEO Jim Frank says he wants the prices in his new grocery store to be competitive with local grocery chains. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Greenstone Homes CEO Jim Frank says he wants the prices in his new grocery store to be competitive with local grocery chains.

As the hungry denizens of the Kendall Yards development heard word of a new forthcoming grocery store in the area, the big price-tag question hung over the excitement.

Would it be hip and pricey, like Whole Foods? Or would it try to provide cheap deals to better serve the low-income West Central market, located far from a grocery chain? 

It turns out, says Greenstone Homes CEO Jim Frank, it will be in the middle of both. 

"I think that Huckleberry’s isn’t a bad comparison," Frank says. "We looked at New Seasons in Portland as a comparison for what we want to do. A small locally-owned neighborhood grocery."

Frank wants My Fresh Market, the 26,000 square-foot local grocery store that Greenstone plans to open and operate next spring on Monroe and Summit Parkway, to be a social gathering place for the neighborhood, not just for grocery shoppers, but for concerts and cooking classes and wine clubs and presentations on sustainable agriculture. He wants to veer away from chain grocery stores to provide a business that fits uniquely with Spokane.  

"Financial considerations are part of it, too. Trying to provide products that are affordable to the median income of people who live in Spokane. It’s not New York. And it’s not Newport Beach. And for that matter it’s not Seattle. You have to have a product mix in pricing that fits that demographic, that represents Spokane in that neighborhood," Frank says. "We’re trying to do a grocery store that can be more in tune with the demographics for the neighborhood that it’s located in."

But he also says that providing low-cost options has to be balanced with the other goals of the grocery store. 

"We're trying to provide organic and locally sourced, that doesn’t mean they can be the lowest price, either, just because of that," Frank says. "Those people need to make a living."

He compares that balancing act to the restaurants currently in Kendall Yards, run by local chefs. 

"Are they the cheapest restaurants in town? No," he says. "The price-points are generally affordable to the population based in Spokane and in West Central. But they’re not fast
food restaurants." 

He says he expects the prices at My Fresh Market to be lower than the Main Market Co-op downtown.

"We’re a bigger store and a higher-volume store; Main Market is more of a specialty store. It’s hard for them to be extremely competitive price-wise," Frank says. "We want to be more competitive and have a larger selection."

On the other hand, it's not going to be a discount grocer selling a lot of bulk items. He says that many grocery stores have struggled to compete on "commodity items," like hand-towels and toilet paper, with big box stores. But in other areas, he thinks they'll be competitive with, say, a Fred Meyer.

“I expect the produce to be competitive with all the other grocery options in Spokane," Frank says. "Some of the cuts on the meats and the fish is where you’re trying to source them to the local farmer and the local fisher, they could be a little more expensive than what you would find in the Safeway store."

And he says it fits right in with a lot of the West Central population as well. 

"We hope to be able to serve a lot of West Central," Frank says. "It's a mistake to think that West Central is made up of nothing but very poor people."
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