Outstanding New Concept: My Fresh Basket, Spokane, Wash.

When My Fresh Basket owner Ramona Higashi was approached about building a supermarket from the ground up along the river in Spokane, Wash., she and her team knew that the concept would have to play off the location.

“We have a great view, so we thought, all right, we’re going to highlight the perishable and fresh part of grocery shopping, try to take the chore out of shopping,” says VP Dave Yount. “Be a destination for people to come in, grab a snack or lunch or dinner, and have a glass of wine up on the veranda and overlook the river.”

The team hired a James Beard Award-winning chef to create the fare for the prepared food department, including a hot bar and carving station surrounded by the produce department that lines the large windowed outside walls, which offer views of the river as well as letting in a lot of natural light. At the end of the store is a fresh bakery, a fresh juice bar, a charcuterie and cheese display, an olive bar, a poke bar, and a fresh meat case.

The team wanted a bit of an upscale look, so the store features marble countertops in the deli, hot bar, salad bar, juice bar and espresso bar, and, to soften the marble and exposed ductwork in the ceiling of the store, roughhewn wood was used as an accent.

The store, which opened June 30, 2017, has developed a nice culture. 

Yount notes: “We get a lot of customers that come in and spend their lunch hour here with co-workers, and they tend to come back after work to either grab a pre-made meal out of the carving station or do their shopping.” The in-store dining area seats about 50, and in the summer, an upper-level veranda seats another 30, along with a ground-level outdoor area with about 30 seats.

The construction process was planned to last about eight months, but as anyone who has ever dealt with building or remodeling a store knows, that number wasn’t hit. Yount wishes that he had added more time to that phase of the project. Planning and design of the store actually took about 18 months.

“I’ve been in the industry now for about 35 years, so I had a good idea of how I wanted the flow of the store,” he says. “I think that was a huge part of how it turned out, doing a lot of research and reading up on trends, what people are looking for.”

The 25,000-square-foot store is just the right size for customers to feel comfortable in when they enter, without seeming too large and overwhelming, he observes: “As you’re walking in the doors, there’s enough service-oriented departments that you hit right away, so the customer feels like there’s actually employees here that want to help and are excited to see them.” And offer them samples.

The center store features wide-open aisles with enough variety that customers can find what they need and have a few choices.

“We looked at trends on organic and conventional CPG items: shoppers want to eat better but they don’t want to pay a ton of money for it,” Yount notes.

The team also was aware that the store couldn’t be everything to everybody, but hit upon dividing the offerings into one-third organic, one-third natural or clean label, and one-third conventional to try to meet as many needs as possible.

“That’s about as well as you can do to try to be everything to everybody,” Yount asserts. “They aren’t going to find everything, but they are going to find a nice cross-mix. They can pick and choose what they want to spend their money on.”

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