- Independent grocery store Mollie Stone's announced plans to open its fourth store in San Francisco and its 10th location overall, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The rest of the California grocery chain's stores are located in proximity to the Bay Area.
- The new Mollie Stone's is scheduled to open some time next year. It will fill a 43,900-square-foot space previously occupied by a sporting goods store, which has been vacant since 2014.
- Whole Foods originally proposed a 365 store for the space in 2016, but because Whole Foods is considered a chain in San Francisco, it was subject to additional city approvals, the Chronicle reported. The San Francisco Planning Commission turned down Whole Foods' application in November 2017.
Mollie Stone's growth is a reminder that customers still want something special from their grocery stores, whether that's local produce, a commitment to the community or a full-service butcher counter. The second-generation family-owned business also offers grocery delivery through Instacart, as well as a digital shopping list tool and mobile coupons through its website.
The company has provided perks for the community at its existing locations that have operated in the city since 1998, with additional expansions in 2006 and 2011. For example, there's a shuttle bus at two of its stores in San Francisco that take shoppers directly to their homes within city limits. The company hasn't indicated whether it will offer a shuttle at its new location.
Traditional supermarket formats tend to face challenges when trying to open in city neighborhoods. Given the limited space and unique personalities of each community within an urban area, larger grocers don't always get the green light. Whole Foods' 365 format could have fit the vacant space well in terms of product assortment and size, but the timing of Amazon's acquisition overlapped with Whole Foods' proposal and may have hindered its ability to win over city planners.
The Independent Grocer Association predicts that independent operators will see a 5% increase in sales over 2018, and small grocery companies and specialty formats continue to expand in other communities. Barons Market in Southern California is planning its ninth location this year, Basics Market has opened three stores since last September in Portland and Giant Heirloom — though not an independent brand — has just opened its second store in urban Philadelphia.