A Sneak Peek at Hy-Vee’s Latest Wisconsin Store

Progressive Grocer talks with CEO Jeremy Gosch ahead of opening
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
a woman smiling for the camera
Food hall
The Hy-Vee in Janesville, Wis., features an expansive food hall that includes a 6-foot sushi counter and full-service pub.

The official opening is days away and at the latest Hy-Vee location in Janesville, Wis., it’s a few minutes until a pivotal store employee meeting with company leaders. The iconic song “Celebration” is playing loudly on the sound system as associates and executives gather near the front of the store.

Even without a hype playlist, team members are ready to launch this 97,160-square foot store in south-central Wisconsin on Feb. 7. “We have a phenomenal crew here — they are really fired up and we have a lot of potential,” observed Hy-Vee CEO Jeremy Gosch, on hand to welcome employees and set the tone for the grocer’s approach to retailing.

That approach has a pretty simple catalyst. “It always starts with the shopper,” said Gosch, in a sit-down interview just before the team meeting.

Throughout the Janesville Hy-Vee, that shopper-centric approach is evident, reflecting consumers’ tastes, interests and pursuit of value. “We offer value in a variety of different ways. Value is price on a shelf, but value is also what you deliver for the goods and services, depending on the quality of those goods and services,” explained Gosch.  

Hy-Vee goes big on bakery, with a cake decorator station, patisserie, ordering kiosk and artful displays.
Hy-Vee goes big on bakery, with a cake decorating station, patisserie, ordering kiosk and artful displays.

The value proposition and the enthusiastic team will help differentiate the employee-owned Hy-Vee in a competitive retail environment: The latest store is across the street on one side from a Festival Foods location and on the other side by a Woodman’s Food Market. Sam’s Club, Walmart and Aldi locations are just down the road. “We go to market a little bit different. We focus on our service model and we are very focused on our people  we think we have a distinct advantage there,” noted Gosch.

Hy-Vee’s entrance into this city, along with planned openings in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, have positioned the retailer as a growing force across an eight-state footprint. “We go to communities where we feel like there is an opportunity. Obviously, we are looking for a subset of different things as we move into a community,” Gosch said, adding, “We will continue to grow in places that make sense.”

According to Gosch, Wisconsin has been a good state for Hy-Vee since the company opened its first store in Madison, which happened in 2009 when he was that area’s district vice president. Indeed, the retailer is opening not just the Janesville store on Feb. 7 but a smaller-format store in the town of Oregon outside of Madison. Hy-Vee acquired that former Bill’s Food Store earlier this year and had only six days to reset and reopen under its own banner.

Janesville kiosk
Hy-Vee's digital kiosks allow shoppers to custom order meals from a variety of stations.

The Janesville store is also a remodel of a former store, a Shopko location that served the Janesville community for many years. After a $27 million investment and an extensive overhaul that began in April 2022, the interior looks like a ground-up supermarket.

The layout, services and amenities reflect the grocer’s shopper-first mantra and approach to food retailing. For example, to appeal to busy yet discerning customers, one side of the store resembles a food hall, with foodservice counters that include Hy-Vee partner Wahlburgers and Hy-Vee’s Nori Sushi, HyChi and Hibachi Asian food, Mia Italian wood-fired pizza, Long Island Deli and Market Grille offerings. For those who want to kick back for a bit, this location follows other store formats in offering a full-service bar and café.

Touchscreen kiosks allow shoppers to custom order meals for themselves and their families. “If you bring a family of four or five, your child can have pizza or you can get the hamburger the way you want it,” explained Tina Potthoff, SVP of communications for Hy-Vee during a store tour.

Hy-Vee beauty
Hy-Vee's beauty area features baskets of bath bombs and unique products, including a line of makeup from actress Drew Barrymore.

Kiosks and more than 50 TV monitors are set up throughout the space to engage and inform shoppers, whether they are ordering a birthday cake from the “Cake This” studio, learning about Hy-Vee’s standards for cattle used in its beef program or scanning a QR code in the wine, beer and spirits department to get a cocktail recipe. Storewide digital shelf tags give consumers the best and most updated prices, while a mobile Scan & Go checkout option provides a speedy checkout experience.

“It’s seamless – not without effort from a lot of people on the back side,” says Gosch of Hy-Vee’s embrace of technology. “As we continue to roll out technology, all of that is part of the customer journey and what they are expecting.” He noted that shoppers’ use of the Hy-Vee app will figure large in the future of grocery tech and convenience.

Hy-Vee’s ability to create boutique-like experiences throughout its stores is also evident in the Janesville location. The assortment of nonfoods, including Joe Fresh clothing, DSW footwear, beauty products, kitchenware and gifts likewise exemplifies the retailer’s efforts to provide more lifestyle solutions to consumers. The kid-in-a-candy-shop vibe comes to life at the in-store candy shop that has become a signature Hy-Vee feature.

Hy-Vee Retail Media
More than 50 monitors across the store provide tips and details on a wide range of products.

Gosch, who took over as CEO in October and was named vice chairman of Hy-Vee’s board in December, agreed that this latest Hy-Vee shows how far the grocery industry and its workers and leaders have come since he joined the industry at age 14 at his local S&S Food Store and began working at Hy-Vee at age 20. “I worked my way up through the system as most of us did. Even if you go back to a 1995 Hy-Vee employee and to what these stores have become, it’s pretty amazing. Generationally, they have continued to really evolve and to again follow the customer,” he declared.

The Janesville location at 2500 Humes Road is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. The store offers delivery and pickup service and is staffed by a team of 631 employees, including 146 full-time workers.

Employee-owned Hy-Vee operates more than 285 retail stores across eight Midwestern states and has a team of more than 93,000 employees. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company is No. 30 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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