I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Best Grocery Store In The World Doesn’t Exist – For These 10 Reasons

My grandfather, may he rest in peace, opened a small grocery store in Toronto after the Holocaust. To hear my dad talk about it, "everybody" in the Jewish community who passed through town saw the sign, frequented the store, and many met my grandfather there too.

Zayde's store was nice because it was small, homey, tasteful, and completely focused on its audience. If you were a Jewish mom doing her weekly shopping before the Sabbath, everything you could possibly need would be on those shelves. Not a million brands, but at least one of each thing.

The store also worked because my Zayde was a rabbi. Not that he blessed the food (you could die from the liver knishes) but he was part of the community and the lifestyle that the store supported. It was about money of course, but it was also more. Without his store it would have been harder to be an observant Jew in Toronto.

Because I loved my Zayde, I loved his store. It’s long since closed, but sometimes I think about it, especially considering that I go to grocery stores fairly frequently, including the kosher ones nearby.

So I spent a few minutes the other day thinking: If I had endless money to create my own dream store, what would I build? Here’s what I came up with:

1. Build a brand, not a store
• Anyone can sell food. What sets you apart is how well you associate yourself with something larger – an idea or a concept that translates into and enhances every product you sell.
• If you build a brand, you can go beyond your core product into related areas and weave everything together with a similar message.
• Focus the brand on something I am passionate about – the pursuit of health in all its forms so as to live life to the fullest and do the most good while we’re here

2. Focus on health
• Minimal health standard for all items in store, such as no more than 5 grams sugar per serving
• Everything labeled to display sugar, fat, chemicals, etc.
• Internet kiosk for more information on any product (like Au Bon Pain)

3. Focus on savings
• No lower prices available
• Not an extra penny spent on anything – like Aldi
• Small enough portions that you won’t waste your money buying extra
• Sales listed aisle by aisle so the viewer can find them easily

4. A teaching approach
• Communication materials (fliers/brochures), staff, and computers guiding you to useful items – somewhat similar to Trader Joe’s
• Cooking classes for adults and children
• Cooking equipment

5. A lifestyle approach
• Mindfulness classes, such as meditation and yoga
• Exercise classes
• Coffee area with couches and chairs

6. A community orientation
• Wi-fi
• Community gathering rooms – for parties, meetings, and so on – at low/no cost
• Good, open childcare or secure play area - like IKEA
• Online/offline social network based around a transforming your lifestyle into a healthier one

7. Help for busy workers
• Ready-made food pre-packaged in lunch and dinner portions – like Pret a Manger
• Range of price points for ready-made food – budget meal, medium, a big of a “splurge”

8. Convenience
• Extended hours
• Shuttle from nearby apartment buildings, for those who don’t have a car or can’t drive
• Close to train or bus
• Sufficient parking
• Delivery service
• Forgiving return policy, like Costco
• A quick checkout

9. A pleasant atmosphere
• Nothing in the store should smell bad
• Aisles sufficiently wide
• Good lighting
• Shopping carts with wheels that work, and cupholders
• Soothing décor and music – not overstimulating

10. Attention to ethics
• Return of a portion of profits to those in need
• Online store with delivery, for those who can’t make it in
• Shopper assistance for the elderly and/or disabled
• Strong, environmentally responsible shopping bags for purchase – and no disposable plastic bags
• Stance against cruelty to animals – no meat or animal-based products

We spend so much of our lives in grocery stores. They should be a nice place to be, rather than a badly-lit place that symbolizes drudgery and dreary chores. There are a lot of new ideas floating around out there when it comes to buying our weekly food…I’m hoping someone will combine them and bring us a lifestyle brand that incorporates a great place to shop.

(All opinions my own. Permission granted to repost with author attribution.)