Overall Design: New Construction, Under 50,000 Square Feet
Honorable Mention: Charlie's County Market, Shawano, Wis.
Designer: Mehmert Store Services
With burdensome maintenance costs, energy costs and steadily increasing overhead at Charlie’s County Market, owner Charlie Harvey knew it was time to make a drastic change to his Shawano, Wis.-based grocery store. In 2009, Harvey hired Sussex, Wis.-based Mehmert Store Services to design a store with all of the amenities of a big-box grocer, but that maintained the affordable, economic sense of a small-town setting.
Harvey’s vision was to trade in his outdated 20,000-square-foot lot for a state-of-the-art facility, more than twice the size and located just down the street.
Despite the town’s size, the food retail competition is formidable, with two big-box grocers nearby fighting for market share. Harvey’s new store needed to project big-box offerings while retaining the previous location’s hometown appeal, differentiating itself from the larger stores’ impersonal tone.
The new store’s format was designed to make an impression as soon as the customer walks in, with a particular emphasis on showcasing the décor of the store’s perimeter. Positioning the produce section front and center evokes the feeling of walking into a fresh market, while dividing the entire store into smaller venues personalizes the experience and offers a sense of consistency for the shopper.
Beyond its visual appeal, the new store is technically advanced, with many innovative features incorporated into the design. To minimize operating costs, Charlie’s uses enhanced energy management, heat rejection, lighting and HVAC automation, and occupancy sensors. In place of traditional open cases, the store uses door merchandisers with LED lighting, electronic valves and high-efficiency fan motors. The merchandisers reduce initial rack size, prevent cold air spill-out and are 35 percent more efficient.
Hundreds of eager customers flocked to Charlie’s grand opening in May 2011, and the response to the new store has been extremely favorable ever since. To date, the new store’s sales are up 25 percent, exceeding initial projections.