- Kroger will close its fresh-focused Main & Vine store early next month, according to The News Tribune. Situated just south of Seattle in Gig Harbor, Washington, the location opened two years ago in a former QFC store.
- The 27,000 square-foot store carried an array of local and organic products, offered culinary classes and featured a large grow wall, among other fresh features. A Kroger spokeswoman told The News Tribune, “we have learned many things about some of the best ways to provide quality, fresh and new foods to our customers.”
- Kroger gave no reason for the store closure, which will happen on or around Jan. 9. A local retail consultant speculated that the opening of a Fred Meyer store in the area was a factor.
Although it’s owned by the country’s largest supermarket chain, Main & Vine has the spirit of an independent operator. Packed into its 27,000 square feet is a wide array of food experiences, including a beer and coffee bar, a pan-Asian food station, hundreds of bulk bins, a pizza oven and a “Living Wall” featuring more than 400 decorative plants. An event space in the center of the store hosts cooking classes and demos, including a program aimed at inspiring ideas for dinner.
Little wonder, then, that a petition to save Main & Vine already has nearly 500 supporters.
But Main & Vine is primarily an experiment for Kroger — a way to test out new concepts in the costly but very profitable fresh and prepared foods arena. Its food stations have helped Kroger’s Marketplace stores build better menus, CEO Rodney McMullen told the Cincinnati Business Courier. A company spokeswoman told The News Tribune that features from the store will be used in the nearby Fred Meyer location.
More than anything, Main & Vine has been a test lab for store experiences. Consumers these days want to sample food and have a beer at their local supermarket, among other things. And a fiercely competitive market means retailers are looking for ways to stand out from the competition.
Kroger is always experimenting and implementing successful measures from its various banners across its national footprint. It’s learned a lot about prepared foods from its Mariano’s stores in Chicago, and about store development and execution from Harris Teeter on the East Coast.
Improving existing locations is the main focus right now for Kroger, which has pulled back on store growth as its stock price has plummeted this year. Across the industry, even promising fresh concepts are on the chopping block, as Ahold Delhaize — which just pulled back on its Bfresh concept — can attest.
So while Main & Vine clearly resonated with shoppers in Gig Harbor, a wider rollout was a long shot, and may never have been in the cards in the first place.