PG Web Extra: Design Secrets of Fairway’s Georgetown Store

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PG Web Extra: Design Secrets of Fairway’s Georgetown Store

06/09/2017

When it came to working on a new store for New York-based Fairway Group Holdings Inc. Christopher Studach, creative director at Eugene, Ore.-based King Retail Solutions (KRS), was far from confident.

“Honestly, this project scared me,” Studach confides. “When we first toured stores with the Fairway team, I had never seen anything like their old Manhattan stores. They were – and I’m being generous here – haphazard, daunting, crazy, discombobulating, mesmerizing and insanely busy. Conversely, their suburban locations were mostly boring, lifeless versions of their heritage stores.”

That being the case, he asserts: “Our job was clear – we needed to recapture the magic of the downtown locations while still elevating and evolving the brand. Yet how do you design something remotely as undeniably cool as what has organically grown – successfully – like a dominant fungus over so many years? It was nerve-wracking.”

In deciding how to approach this massive undertaking, Studach explains that KRS’ aim was “to really nail down what exactly Fairway had done so well earlier in their evolution that allowed for the exceptionally peculiar downtown stores. What we learned was that we needed to design a space that shopped like a fun treasure hunt, but was not off-putting or difficult to navigate. We had to showcase their signature products and services – an amazing array of fresh produce, New York deli, meats, fish, olive oils and vinegars, in-house roasted coffee varieties, imported specialties, and, of course, a killer lineup of fresh-prepared foods and baked goods. This all had to be done in Fairway’s ‘perfectly imperfect,’ unassuming and unpretentious manner.”

Even once the strategy was in place, however, there were complications that slowed progress. “Due to several false starts – changing prototype locations, business challenges for the client, and, finally, construction challenges – the process was significantly longer than normal,” notes Studach. “From initial kickoff to completion, it was just over two years.”

As it turned out, the problems presented by the site were nothing that KRS couldn’t handle. “The existing store had very little infrastructure that was useful for the Fairway concept, so in essence, the main sales floor was a complete gut job,” recounts Studach. “That actually made for an easier design in some ways. Most of the challenges – very few, honestly – were due to details within the building that could not have been known prior to the start of construction, which is typical of many sizeable remodels – things like an inadequate floor slab that had to be replaced.”

Then the design firm applied itself to creating the right ambiance. “The distinctly New York City look and feel, married with the evolved Fairway heritage – which can be clearly seen when comparing legacy stores to Georgetown – the ‘treasure hunt’ layout – typically a terrible idea! – the purposely imperfect lighting, the strongly integrated promotional elements, the simple and relatively low-cost signage and décor purposely designed for a sense of value, … taken as a whole created a one-of- a-kind environment that upheld and exulted the singular style of both Fairway and the neighborhood,” observes Studach.

There were two areas, however, in which KRS didn’t choose to excel, in deference to the grocer’s expressed outlook: technology and equipment. “Due to the Fairway character we wanted to preserve, we did not try to be state of the art,” says Studach.

Despite the dauntingly tall order presented by the project, “the end result is happily just what we had hoped to achieve,” he enthuses. “It’s a fantastic extension of the most successful and unique Manhattan legacy stores, and nothing at all like the newer, bland suburban stores. Based on all measures, it seems to be a hit, so our instincts were not wrong.”

Fairway Offers Ecommerce in Brooklyn

Not only is the Fairway store in the Georgetown community of Brooklyn a prototype location for the New York grocer, but it’s also a focus of the company’s ecommerce plans. Dorothy Carlow, Fairway Group Holdings Corp.’s chief merchandising officer, explains that “this is going to be in the next phase of our ecommerce rollout. We have a site called shop.fairway.com where you can shop for all of these [products].”

The Georgetown store was even built to accommodate ecommerce deliveries. “We have a whole space in the back dedicated to it,” observes Carlow. “We just didn’t open with it.”

She adds: “We are in Manhattan right now, but Brooklyn’s phase two. You’ll be able to shop online and have your groceries delivered from here.” As for the available offerings, she brags: “We have the largest selection of SKUs on our ecommerce site. You can basically shop the entire store online and have it delivered to your house in under two hours in Manhattan.”

Asked about whether the Georgetown location’s shoppers would have the option of ordering ahead online and then coming in to pick up their groceries in person, she replies, “That’s a smaller business for us, but we’ll certainly allow for click and collect at the store.”

At the time of Progressive Grocer’s visit to the Georgetown store in early March, the second-phase ecommerce launch was slated for “about a month and half from now,” according to Carlow. A visit to shop.fairway.com in late May reveals that the site is accepting Georgetown’s Brooklyn ZIP code, 11234, for order deliveries.

Fairway’s main website notes that the grocer partners with Google and Instacart to power its online grocery shopping experience.

Read more about the Georgetown Fairway, PG's June 2017 Store of the Month.