A Room Of Their Own

6/1/2010

High-profile equipment plays a leading role in store-within-stores’ theater and expanded one-stop-shopping opportunities.

Supermarkets have become both more kinetic and more convenient, thanks in part to the increasing prevalence of specialized marketing areas — smaller stores within the larger store — for everything from flowers to cheese to coffee. Equipping these stores-within-stores is part of the equation for grocers’ success.

Flowers make life brighter. And, in these dark economic times, the rainbow array of supermarket floral departments hasn’t lost its attraction. “As an equipment supplier, Floratech notices renewed interest in capital investment in supermarket floral departments in 2010,” says John Patalita, division manager for the North Syracuse, N.Y.-based company, which provides floral solutions for many of the top 75 retailers in the United States and Canada, and is the market leader in Europe. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that the supermarket share of the U.S.A. floral market has increased since 2008, while the entire industry declined in 2008 and 2009.”

Patalita says that Floratech’s best-selling Wall of Color has a patented “Always Open” design with no confining doors or ceiling that stimulates impulse floral purchasing, and that highly flexible shelving allows display of both cut flowers, with heads tilted toward customers, and arrangements. “Unique scalloped shelves permit buckets to be evenly spaced as seasonal demand changes,” he explains, which enables flowers to be visible at a distance, thus creating customer interest and setting the tone for an upscale retail environment.

“There is a high floral capacity per square foot of floor space, and Wall of Color modules can be combined to create large, customized displays, available in any color scheme to match store décor,” adds Patalita, noting that the unit’s patented laminar airflow keeps flowers at ideal floral conditions in any open display.

Another floral equipment provider, Sterling Heights, Mich.-based SRC Refrigeration, offers a designer series line of floral coolers featuring “Surround Air” high-humidity/low-velocity plug-in refrigeration systems. The Designer Series III walk-in coolers are combo units designed with glass doors on the front for merchandising and an open space behind the dividing wall for bulk storage. One compressor cools both areas.

Pan-Oston’s made-to-order wood and/or metal floral display solutions include display racks, shelving towers, soil displays, overhead trellises, flower carts, wagon displays, cooler pedestals, garden center displays, and steps. The Bowling Green, Ky.-based company has designed and is currently prototyping a new floral island.

Say Cheese!

Cheese is another key category that has moved far beyond traditional island fixtures. Murray’s, long the gold standard for cheesemongers in New York City, signed an agreement late last year with the Kroger Co. to open 50 store-within-a-store locations in Kroger supermarkets in the next three years. The move came after the success of three Murray’s pilot shops at Kroger locations in the grocer’s hometown of Cincinnati.

The Whole Foods Market at Bowery and Houston streets in New York City, meanwhile, boasts a European-style fromagerie with its own aging cave — a first on the Northeast supermarket scene.

In Wisconsin, America’s cheese capital, two independent grocers have carved out a strong niche with their specialty store-within-store cheese caves. Brookfield, Wis.-based Sendik’s Fine Foods has had a cheese cave since 2001, according to owner Jim Balistreri, who explains that the 11- foot-by-19-foot cave carries approximately 750 SKUs. The unit’s cooler panels are made by Plymouth, Minn.-based CrownTonka, while the inside walls feature Metro shelving with cheese barrels in the center.

Sentry Foods’ store in Sun Prairie, Wis., meanwhile, has had a cheese cave for almost four years, says general manager Nate Pederson. The space, which measures 14 feet by 10 feet by 10 feet, holds 60 SKUs. It features a CrownTonka cooler with an automatic sliding glass door. There’s also one large Larkin cooling unit, with three fans that maintain the cave’s temperature.

CrownTonka, the equipment supplier for the cheese caves of both Sendik’s and Sentry Foods, manufactures walk-in coolers and freezers and insulated panels. All of its walk-ins are CAD-designed to exact specifications, and panels are engineered and built for easy installation. The UL class 1 non-CFC urethane insulation used is designed to bond with panels.

CrownTonka — which also makes beer caves, further expanding the store-within-a-store concept — has been working closely with its vendor/partner, New York-based Carpenter Co., a division of Chemical Systems Division, to develop a urethane with superior properties, and the result of this collaboration is FE-2200, whose insulating value is up to 35 percent better when compared with panels made from polystyrene.

America is a coffee-driven nation, so it’s no surprise to find both coffee shops/bars and coffee roasters increasingly in today’s supermarkets. Walled Lake, Mich.-based Java Master has over 200 retail installations, with Whole Foods being the largest customer for its Java Master Retail Roaster.

According to Terry Immel, Java Master’s VP of retail roastery development: “One of the biggest benefits of our fluid bed roaster is the tight control we have of temperature. Unlike with a drum, when the roast is complete, the beans go instantly through a cooling process, which prevents over-roasting. Our computer controls manage this process, which is simply defined by our roasting menu guide. So, no matter what the bean, if a consumer determines they like a certain flavor roast, we can duplicate that consistently from order to order.”

Another manufacturer of in-store coffee roasters is Ponderay, Idaho-based Diedrich Manufacturing, which makes the IR-5 and IR-12 roasters. Its stainless steel cooling bins meet organic needs, and infrared gas burners provide consistent, even heat throughout the roast. Large internal access doors provide ease of maintenance, and Zerk fittings allow for easy greasing. The Diedrich in-store roasters have internal heat exchangers for controllability and multiple air-flow settings for continuous roasting.

One of the latest developments in the store-within-store trend is the advent of charcuteries. The word itself is French and means “cooked meats” — or the store that sells them. One leading grocer that’s making great use of charcuteries is Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, three of whose Market District stores feature a state-of-the-art charcuterie. (See the related sidebar above.)

Closely allied to charcuteries are meat smokers and barbecue ovens. Menomenee Falls, Wis.-based Alto-Shaam supplies meat smokers to such name retailers as Wegmans, Whole Foods, Costco and Ahold. Todd Griffith, Alto-Shaam’s VP of sales and marketing, notes that his company offers a variety of options for retailers specific to a “cooked foods” application, including Alto-Shaam’s traditional cook-and-hold smoker oven technology, which uses “halo-heat” technology.

“Other options,” Griffith goes on, “include the patented Combitherm Oven with a smoker feature. This oven is becoming a standard cooking platform and component in many retail operations. Alto-Shaam has a patented smoker option that can be added to the combi-oven that expands the oven production capability to now include both hot and cold smoked items.”

Unlike the cook-and-hold oven, however, Griffith says the Combitherm can be run through a clean cycle, and all of the smoke residue can be removed from the oven, allowing full use in a variety of modes.

“Alto-Shaam has even developed a smoker accessory for its upright vertical gas rotisserie oven. For those who seek full theater with the ability to also smoke foods in a controlled environment, this is another great option,” he adds.

St. Louis-based Hess Meat Machines makes Southern Pride barbecue ovens for such customers as Whole Foods and the Market at Busch’s Grove in Missouri. The vendor’s Southern Pride SPSC200 has a digital Roast ‘n Hold Control thermostat and a 200-pound capacity. It features an internal smoker with a wood-chip box and can be used with or without sheet pans. A Vortex Convection air system and a fully insulated cabinet are additional features.

The Southern Pride oven can be used as a barbecue/smoker unit, as well as a roasting and holding oven, according to David Hess of Hess Meat Machines.

With so many specialized areas within today’s supermarket, a trip to the grocery store is now a trip to the excitement and variety of more than one store. There’s doubtless more to come — and the equipment to make it happen.

A Taste of Europe

As retailers seek out authenticity in their presentations and products, specialized fixtures play an important role in this emerging verisimilitude.

A stellar example is the charcuterie in place at three Giant Eagle Market District stores in the Pittsburgh area. As both a noun and verb, “charcuterie” — a French word meaning “cooked meats” — began as a way to preserve meats without refrigeration. The traditional charcutier, a title reflecting great culinary skill, prepares cooked, cured, salted, seasoned and dried meats, including patés, confits and mousses.

Situated within eyeshot of both the deli and meat departments, the Market District charcuteries offer about 100 items, according to Giant Eagle spokesman Daniel Donovan, with such offerings as Creminelli Artisan Salamis, La-Quercia Artisan Meats from Iowa, and Jamon Serrano from Spain.

The 8-foot cases in the Market District charcuteries are manufactured by Barker Specialty Products for Conyers, Ga.-based Hill Phoenix in Keosauqua, Iowa, which makes 12 series of custom cases for meat and seafood.

“Our charcuteries have been a great point of difference for our Market District locations,” notes Giant Eagle’s Donovan, “and our customers have reacted positively.”

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