Local Flavor

Store designs are reflecting the history and vibe of the communities they serve.

By Kim Ann Zimmermann

The “go local” movement is going beyond the produce department and other sections in the supermarket. It is also becoming the mantra for store design, as highlighted in this year’s Design Showcase. Whether the store is serving a college crowd or residents of an historic lakeside community, some supermarket décor is beginning to take on a distinctive neighborhood feel.

“When designing the look and feel of a store, local relevance is more important now than ever before—especially for smaller and independent grocers,” says Harry Steen, creative design manager for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu Store Design Services.  “One of the best ways these grocers can draw customers away from the big box competition is to build a strong connection with their local communities and reflect the lifestyles of those customers. From a design standpoint, that means local photography on the walls, signage that ties to the community and authentic site-specific design themes and materials that make people say, ‘This is my neighborhood grocery store.’”

Many retailers are using oversized photographic images and illustrations to give the décor a community connection, observers note. “They are using these almost as a theatrical backdrop,” says Tony Camilletti, executive vice president for D|Fab, based in Madison Heights, Mich.

The ultimate goal is to make the shopping experience comfortable and efficient so that shoppers will linger. “If shoppers allocate an hour for shopping and they can get through what they need to do in 50 minutes, that gives them more time to explore,” says Bruce Dybvad, CEO of Dayton, Ohio-based Interbrand Design Forum.
Here are some of the outstanding examples of stores that have been recently build or remodeled.

Tall order
PROJECT: Fresh Madison Market, Madison,Wis.
DESIGN TEAM: Mehmert Store Services, Sussex, Wis.

The Fresh Madison Market in Madison, Wis. is located within a 1.1 million-square-foot, multi-story, mixed use development containing a two-story retail mall, a 10-story tower containing luxury apartments and condos and a 9-story office tower. It is positioned to service students and staff at the University of Wisconsin, those who live and work downtown and the community.

All of these unique features created a number of challenges from a design perspective, but Steve Mehmert, president of Sussex, Wis.-based Mehmert Store Services, say his team was up for the task. His company provided store planning, equipment management, project management, construction management, interior design and décor for the 18,000-square-foot retail space on the first floor and prep areas on the second floor.

“We were also dealing with a short time frame, with the first tradesman on site at the end of September and the grand opening in early January,” he says. Designing around the existing mechanical systems also presented some unique issues, he says.

The designers chose to make the most of the vertical space, Mehmert says. “We used taller cases and made more use of vertical merchandising and we put shelving on large support columns.”

Agricultural roots
PROJECT: Piggly Wiggly, Delevan, Wis.
DESIGN FIRM: Design Fabrication, Inc. (D|Fab), Madison Heights, Mich.
When executives at D|Fab signed on to design a Piggly Wiggly in Delevan, Wis., the mission was to create an upscale shopping environment that would appeal to the local affluent demographic and attract vacationers from nearby lakes. The retailer also wanted the store décor to pay homage to the area’s agricultural roots.

D|Fab developed a warm and inviting store interior using a select palette of rich historic tones: navy, terra cotta and cream colors were used throughout the space to delineate perimeter departments, draw focus to category destinations and compliment the food product. The community’s agricultural roots are emphasized through large-scale sepia-toned wall murals depicting fields and local landscapes.

The perishables side of the store is enhanced with a dark ceiling color and vinyl wood plank flooring, encompassing the areas of bakery, deli service, produce, floral, and an eat-in café. Hanging CoreLite baffles add interest and excitement to the warehouse space while also providing customers with additional way-finding signage.

Apple of shoppers’ eyes
PROJECT: Dave’s Fresh Marketplace, Smithfield, R.I.
DESIGN FIRM: CIP Retail Impact, Fairfield, Ohio

One of the eight stores owned and operated by East Greenwich, R.I.-based independent retailer Dave Cesario, the Smithfield, R.I., Dave’s Fresh Marketplace vividly illustrates the grocer’s long-standing commitment to localizing and celebrating the indigenous flavor of the surrounding New England community.

The challenge for the design team at Fairfield, Ohio-based CIP Retail Impact was to convert an abandoned 35,000-square-foot Linens ‘N Things location into a full-scale supermarket in less than four months.

Paying homage to the Smithfield community’s 150-year heritage rooted in sprawling apple orchards, as well as its founder’s humble fruit stand origins, large murals adorning the produce department depict many of the orchards that were once a prominent part of the community. As the pillar of Dave’s high-quality fresh food offerings, the produce department remains the hallmark of the store’s captivating use of visual and emotional cues. For this reason, designers constructed a faux barn façade that serves as home to a carving station and sushi bar, alongside other prepared food options like burrito and pasta stations and brick-oven pizza prepared in a hearth oven.

Presiding over all facets of the interior, including flooring, lighting and interior construction design, as well as décor branding, wayfinding and installation, CIP delivered a finished product that visually identifies each department with its own distinguishable “storefront” motif.

Among the store’s highlights is the seafood department, which plays up the dockside freshness and wide bounty of daily catches, and the Cheese Lodge.

Scenic store
PROJECT: Supervalu, Pequot Lakes, Minn.
DESIGN FIRM: Supervalu Store Design Services, Eden Prairie, Minn.

Situated in the heart of Min­nesota’s scenic lake country, Pequot Lakes’ Supervalu grocery store features a rustic design modeled after the area’s numerous vacation cottages and wilderness homes. De­signed by Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu Store Design Services, the 30,000- square-foot store is outfitted with authentic cabin décor including split log signage, stacked stone pillars, deer antler chandeliers and even hanging canoes that once belonged to a local resort.

Although Pequot Lakes flies the Supervalu banner, it is actually owned by an independent family-owned grocer supplied by Supervalu’s wholesale division. To make the store especially relevant to the Pequot Lakes community, the interior walls are lined with photos of outdoor recreation in the region, each aisle directory is named after a nearby lake.

The use of recurring visual elements throughout the store creates a seamless continuity from one department to another. The Pequot Lakes pine tree logo is incorporated into signage, light fixtures, check-stands and a large cut-tile floor design that greets shoppers as they enter the store. Dyed concrete flooring and abundant custom woodwork contributes to the warm, earthy appearance of the store’s interior.

Fresh and affordable
PROJECT: Bi-Lo, various locations
DESIGN FIRM: api(+), Tampa, Fla.

When Bi-Lo officials approached api(+) about working on a remodel, they wanted a cost-effective design that was in line with its brand position: Real Savings, Real Fresh.

Another requirement was that the design had to be flexible enough so that it could be implemented in a number of store sizes and layouts.

Designers at api(+) created a uniquely formed radius edge design element which was derived from the established Bi-Lo brand logotype to align with the brand positoning goals of friendly, approachable, genuine, real and simple.

According to officials at api(+), the addition of a leaf element to replace the dash in the existing Bi-Lo logotype reinforces the fresh positioning. Coloration of the logotype was also refreshed and brightened.

The interior environment is replete with warm and inviting patterns, colors and finishes resonating with both loyal and new Bi-Lo customers, according to company officials. The warmth and character of butcher block wood and traditional gingham graphics epitomized the new brand positioning and were translated into fresh modern-day design elements.

The successful design has already been implemented into two locations and is currently being implemented into another three locations and a?number of stores are slated for the design upgrade.

Shopping made easy
PROJECT: Family Fare Supermarkets (Spartan banner), Battle Creek, Mich.
DESIGN FIRM: WD Partners, Dublin, Ohio

Spartan’s retail strategy is to offer convenience—in terms of location and the shopping experience. The retailer focuses on its “Meals Made Easy” and in-store nutritional labeling programs and emphasizes healthy, fresh, and local products.

To support this strategy, designers for WD Partners created an updated look to support the brand’s convenience and value messaging, drive trips and increase basket size.

“They had all of these great things and the design helps them to connect the dots with the consumer,” says Brian Bucher, creative director for WD Partners. “What we created is a brand personality.”

Bucher says the updated décor package enhances the shopping experience and helps to distinguish between departments. “It is a fresher, more food-focused color palette,” he says. “There is green in produce, deeper warm yellows and oranges in prepared foods and brighter, fresher colors in pharmacy.” Enhanced décor was also designed to bring attention to the bakery, pharmacy and wine departments.

The store layout was streamlined for easier shopping, along with clear communication.  They developed enhanced “merchandising zones” for existing Spartan programs.

According to WD Partner officials, this design will be the retailer’s prototype for all future new stores and remodels. The retailer plans five major remodels and two new/relocated supermarkets in the next year.

Lighting the way
PROJECT: Pruett’s Food, DeQueen, Ark.
DESIGN FIRM: Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan.

While any design upgrade is like­ly to surprise shoppers, executives at Pruett’s Food took things a step further when they renovated a retail space that had been vacated by another supermarket.

They put up a wall to “hide” one of the star attractions—the produce department—as customers walked through the front entrance, engaging them in a game of discover. “We really wanted it to be a bit of a treasure hunt,” says owner Ray Pruett.

Varied color schemes, flooring and ceiling are used to distinguish the departments. The deli, for example, has an eye-catching stamped ceiling. Pruett says many of the choices of colors and materials reflect trends in residential design. “Some of the choices were inspired by materials my wife and I chose for our own home,” he says.

The lighting levels are varied by department as well, using equipment from St. Louis-based BAERO North America. There is a mix of warm-tone, high-pressure sodium lamps and, where needed, ceramic metal halide. The warm and inviting 100-watt sodium lamps bring out the color of the produce, while the meat and deli are bathed in cooler tones with a combination of 100-watt sodium lamps and 70-watt ceramic metal halides.

Old-world inspiration
PROJECT: Freson Bros., Manning, Alberta, Canada

Though located mainly in rural Alberta towns, Freson stores are increasingly facing competition from larger chains and multi-nationals, says Joseph Bona, president of CBX’s retail division. “What we sought was to give this chain a branded look and feel.”

When visiting with the client, Bona says he noticed a number of old photos—the store was founded as a butcher shop in 1955—which inspired the design.

“What’s interesting is that [founder] Frank Lovsin actually worked in many of the Freson stores, establishing a personal relationship with community members. Our objective was to capitalize on that heritage by making sure customers could sense the family’s presence in their local store.”

The design achieved that goal in several ways. First, the revamped logo, which debuts on the Manning store exterior, is graphically powerful, but includes subtle tweaks. The words “Freson Bros.” replace the “Freson Market” found on the previous Manning store exterior. The former blue and red logo has given way to a deep burgundy field where custom sans serif type spells out Freson Bros.

Department signage applied to soffitts and walls is designed to recall earlier times with a hand-painted, gold-leaf embellished look. Other solid-looking materials such as the brick used in the deli department further suggest personalized permanence. The light-toned ceramic floor tile is a practical solution to the harsh winter months that define the Alberta province, but it is also an element that suggests permanence and quality.

“We’ve gone from a generic look to something that only a Freson Bros. store could look like,” says Doug Lovsin, Freson Market’s vice president of operations.

Walk through Rome
PROJECT: Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace,
Port Jefferson Station, N.Y,
DESIGN FIRM: Lind Design, Yonkers, N.Y.

A 52,000-square foot former Stop & Shop was transformed into an Italian marketplace with the help of designers from Yonkers, N.Y.-based Lind Design.

“Among the many unique aspects of this market is that they have three separate kitchens,” says Gary Lind, president of Lind Design, based in Yonkers, N.Y. “There is also a circular structure to the store, which we worked to highlight in our design.”

As many customers choose to enjoy their Italian delicacies on premises, there is seating beyond the checkout. Other highlights are an extensive produce section and a nonfoods department that sells pots, pans and cappuccino makers from Italy.

The store features an espresso bar and a large cheese island, Lind says. “It is like taking a walk through Rome.”

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