- An urban micro-grocery store called The Market on Michigan Avenue (MoMA) will open in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan at the end of the month, mLive reported.
- The 4,000-square-foot store will offer fresh and dry goods, a deli, beer and wine, pantry essentials and locally sourced and sustainably farmed produce and meats.
- MoMa first announced plans for the store last December, after a study categorized East Michigan Avenue as a food desert.
For the past few years, micro-grocery stores have been popping up in urban neighborhoods to serve a variety of needs and build community engagement. These stores often help retailers penetrate dense urban neighborhoods where finding real estate for a standard store is challenging and often cost-prohibitive. Micro grocers in downtown areas can also take advantage of heavy foot traffic.
For some communities, including Kalamazoo's East Michigan Avenue, micro-grocery stores are a solution to food deserts in the U.S. where people are often limited to fast food or convenience stores. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Pythian Market serves a senior community in the area, where 10% of seniors are food insecure. Roughly 23.5 million people live in food deserts and half of those residents are low-income earners.
Large-scale grocers have dabbled in the micro concept. Kroger recently opened a Kroger Express in a Walgreens store in northern Kentucky that offers more than 2,000 items. It plans to open more mini locations near its Cincinnati headquarters. Whole Foods is also experimenting with scaled-down locations through its new Whole Foods Market Daily Shop in New York City, offering grab-and-go items as well as fare from local favorites like Dough Donuts.
With real estate developers looking for grocery stores to anchor mixed-use developments, malls and other projects — and offering enticing incentives — retailers like Meijer have developed small-format stores.
Healthcare providers are also turning to micro-grocery stores to support healthy diets for patients and staff. Bronson Methodist Hospital – also located in Kalamazoo, opened Bronson Market earlier this year to offer employees healthy food options. Almost half of the items offered in the store are from local and regional farms. A health-focused micro-grocery called Basics Market opened last year on the ground floor of a hospital in Portland, Oregon, and the owners are encouraging physicians to send their patients to the store.
Despite the unique role they fill, micro-grocers face their own set of challenges. Austin, Texas-based in.gredients, a package-free micro-grocery store, closed in mid-2018 due to rising rents while Plenty Grocery & Deli in Chicago closed in April for unstated reasons. Offering a limited range of products has a quaint appeal, but operating costs in dense areas can be high and consumers looking for a full shop may still opt for a traditional supermarket.