Friday, August 3, 2012

Grocer's Get-Away to Chicago

What is a Grocer's Get-Away or a Grocer's Safari?  A group of grocers come together for the purpose of exploring grocery businesses to discover, "What they are doing right." 

Our purpose is getting new ideas and seeing what's new.  We view displays, décor, retail items, etc., to bring back and implement in our own stores. And we have utilized this knowledge in many ways over the years, everything from handi-wipes that sanitize the shopping cart handles to "How to successfully implement a Dry Aged Meat program."  

My favorite project, that utilized elements we had seen in our tours, is our World Flavors Section at Harter House on Republic Road. This back-lit shelving was one of my favorite features we brought to our World Flavors Market.

The education department, at Associated Wholesale Grocers, will usually plan two outings a year.  Our most recent trip was Chicago, July 24 to July 29, 2012.  I'd like to share  some of my experiences with you.  

We start at the Drake Hotel on the corner of Michigan and Lake Shore Drive.  Our coordinator, Marie Lewis, secured this famous hotel for our stay, which included a breakfast voucher for each morning at the Drake Bros. Restaurant. I highly recommend this elegant historic hotel.

Our first store tour Wednesday was State Street PotashMarket.  The wood signage outside and signage inside is eye appealing.  I really like the pictures on the walls of family members dating back to circa 1950.  I have some similar pictures of my dad I would love to share with our customers.  The owner, Art Potash, greets this group of  __ grocers, very happy and proud  to share his history. 

I notice heavy duty plastic juicers with the lemons and limes.  I notice on top of his cooler cases he has cooking items such as serving bowls, etc. Potash Market was 2011 Retailer of the Year and he announced it on a vinyl sign hanging in his store.   

The deli is spectacular.  His meat case reminded me of Harter House, full service.  One unique item I liked was the whole stuffed chickens.

In the freezer is spectacular LED lighting, definitely on our Harter House to-do list. 
  I liked their comment box, "How did we do today?  We would love to know." 

Second stop was a Walgreens.
"Why?", you say.
Keep in mind this store is just off Michigan Avenue in the heart of downtown Chicago.

This two story Walgreens has a very nice lunch deli for the thousands that work in this area and visitors.  Two sushi chefs made delicious looking fresh rolls. 

Their pastry case was very impressive.  I can't help but notice the Spinach and Swiss Croissant.
This store has a 6 dispenser frozen yogurt machine
with your choice of toppings.  The liquor department has a "Virtual Bartender" machine, a touch screen providing beverage recipes.  I've seen this before, many years ago before smart phones were popular.  We liked it better then.

I notice on the walls,  Instead of "milk" & "eggs", their wall signage says, "Eat Well".

And once again, a large picture in their store front window displays an old picture of a "Walgreens Drug Store" ice cream truck. 
astly, I notice their  "Chicago Proud" wall art.  I love an inviting decor.  It shows a professional style and uniqueness.

Our third store was a new  Walmart Express.  Marie, why was this store on our list?  Well, they're popping up everywhere.  This store does not have any bells & whistles.  It's new.  It's clean.   It does have sky-lighting in the ceiling which offers natural lighting.  I like this feature on this sunny day.    As we leave, I notice a "Red Box" DVD rental.  I might like to have a "Red Box" to offer to my customers. 

Our fourth and final store today is Mariano's Fresh Market. 

As we enter we are greeted by a wall sign that says,
"Shop Well, Eat Well, Live Well".   Produce displays in the front windows are unique.  It looks nice.  

 I take pictures of their produce department because it's very impressive. 
 This store is lovely. 

Next we have a "Hearth Baked Pizza" section next to the "Create Your Sandwich" section.  This pizza looked Yummy.  I refrained!  

The bakery, again, was outstanding. This is a large store, with large departments and it's full with lots of variety in every department. 

I notice the cupcakes.  These are not ordinary cupcakes.  They are large works of art. 
e can do this too!! 
I love the "Mariano's Fresh Market" stickers on their own fresh baked items. 

Next, I'm drawn to this wonderful cheese section. I love the display case.  It's  full, with lots of variety.
  I really like the product description cards. 

I notice cheeses, cranberries, nuts and dried fruit on the serving board, I'm sure was prepared and deli wrapped in this store. 

Their meat department is awesome.  I take lots of pictures. 

I love the extensive sausage display. 

There is a variety of specialty fresh burger patties, such as Pepper Jack & Bacon Burger & Jalapeno Cheddar Pub Burger.   I could go on and on.  Basically, I really like this store.  As we prepare to exit I notice the employee uniform.  Everyone is wearing black slacks, a white shirt, and a black neck tie.  It is very sharp looking.  And lastly, I notice the baby grand piano in the front of the store.  An employee tells me that they have someone playing often, and at other times it is a player piano. 

What fun and an educational day.
Tomorrow Barbara & I get to see more!

~Shelly Kauffman

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