Wild Oats brought People’s Market to Evanston, Supervalu just premiered Sunflower in Lincoln Park; Chicago’s underserved natural foods segment seems to be quite popular with small-city companies looking to test new concepts in the big city.
H. Lee Murphy at Crain’s Chicago Business reports:
bq. Roundy’s Inc. of Milwaukee, which operates 143 supermarkets in Wisconsin, plans to bring an upscale grocery concept called Metro Market to Chicago next year, sources say. “We’re in a growth mode and looking to expand,” a Roundy’s spokeswoman says.
Metro Market’s one 53,000 square foot location is on the east side (near north?) of Milwaukee. I stopped by (wholly incidentally) last year and don’t remember anything in particular; the press release description sounds promising but still quite Wisconsin specific (a dozen varieties of sausage made on the premises daily, adult-sized cupcakes, pierogies and a Friday fish fry with rye bread). Interestingly, Bob Mariano, current CEO of Roundy’s, was head of Dominick’s before its sale to Safeway.
Supervalu describes Sunflower as “efficient” and “convenient”; one of its most promising features is is compact footprint: 8-12,000 SKUs in 12-15,000 square feet.
The little highlight in that Crain’s article that I thought was cool is that it sounds like they’re reusing the beautiful white-glazed building at Wabash/Roosevelt for one of the Sunflower stores (which, with the looming Dominicks/Whole Paycheck axis at Canal, gives the S. Loop its second dual-grocery corner within six blocks).
Update: Supervalu is shutting down Sunflower (Lisa Bertagnoli via Crain’s). Not incredibly surprising, given the lack of customers (which I liked — could breeze through), but in recent months I’d actually managed to get through a month with Sunflower as my main grocery (and Dominick’s pinch hitting), without any need for WFM or TJ’s. I knew that Sunflower was in trouble when those expansion plans were put on ice, when the coupons started going out, and when the shelves seemed a bit emptier some time last year.
I’d really like to see someone succeed with natural foods in that 12-15,000 square foot range, and in some of the locations that Sunflower was reportedly scoping out in 2006: Grand/Milwaukee, Wabash/Roosevelt, Logan Square, etc. An example: I currently have two grocery choices on the bike ride home from work: Jewel at Milwaukee & Ashland or Dominick’s (a little out of the way at Madison & Halsted or Chicago & Hoyne). Another Jewel is under construction at Milwaukee & Kinzie. I sometimes go up Kingsbury to hit WFM, TJ’s, or Sunflower along Clybourn, but that takes quite a bit longer. The supermarkets take too long to navigate (even in the Dominick’s at Skybridge, which has an organic “department” adjacent to produce) and don’t quite carry a full range of natural products — even pretty basic things like quarts of organic yogurt. Once WFM moves into its leviathan new space on Kingsbury, it will take even longer to navigate. And let’s face it, man cannot survive on Trader Joe’s alone.
Looks like they’re trying again, although with an established brand name. “Urban Fresh, by Jewel” will open in the same space this fall.