Shoppers will find a tech-savvy store that's smaller and more 'customer-centric' when they visit the new 365 by Whole Foods Market in Lake Oswego
When Lake Oswegans stop by the new 365 by Whole Foods Market in Oswego Village, they wont just be visiting a replacement for the former Albertsons theyll be testing out a new grocery store business model aimed at faster and more streamlined shopping.
We were the pioneers of natural organic, and now a lot of people have caught up, said 365 president Jeff Turnas during a preview tour on Tuesday. The question is, how do we compete?
The answer, he said, can be found in a new line of stores aimed at price-conscious shoppers that debuted last month in Los Angeles and opened its doors in Lake Oswego at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Free snacks for all shoppers were among the surprises on opening day, when cars filled the State Street parking lot and hundreds of people wandered through the store. The first 365 shoppers received a free reusable shopping bag, and the first 100 shoppers walked away with gift cards in varying amounts from $5 to $365.
Regular store hours will be 8 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week.
The new stores are physically smaller than a standard Whole Foods Market; they feature about 7,000 items and 100 employees, compared to the 20,000-or-more items and 200-250 employees at a full-size store. The employees also operate as one team instead of being divided into departments, with the overall goal of placing a greater emphasis on speed and convenience.
Its not a service-heavy store, Turnas said, but its still customer-centric.
Some of the changes to the former Alberstons store are visible from the outside, like the new dormer on the front and bigger, more prominent windows. But the biggest changes are inside, where crews have been hard at work transforming the space over the past two months.
The store features local artwork, and all of the tall shelves have been moved to the walls of the building, enabling visitors to see almost the entire store from any point inside. Its a design choice that 365 is closely following at each of its stores according to Turnas, the Lake Oswego 365 is a flopped version of the Silver Lake store in Los Angeles, but is otherwise identical in terms of layout.
We want it to be thoughtfully simple, Turnas said. 365 is cookie-cutter, and were OK with that.
Turnas said each 365 will still boast a unique local flavor thanks to the Friends of 365 program, which creates a space at the front of each market for local businesses to set up shop. In the Lake Oswego store, those two businesses are Canteen and Next Level Burger.
The Canteen juice bar sits right in front of the main entrance and features the full drink menu from the stores primary Southeast Portland location, as well as new steamed juice mixers. At the other end of the store is Next Level Burger, which serves burgers, fries and shakes, but with a twist all the burgers are plant-based. The franchise began two years ago in Bend and recently opened a branch on Hawthorne Boulevard in Southeast Portland.
Between the two Friends stores is a café area with a seating capacity for 60 people, plus another 18 bench and barstool seats at Next Level Burger. (The two sections can be used by all visitors, but Next Level Burger has to have a separate marked area in order to serve beer). The area features free Wi-Fi, and Turnas said the hangout factor will allow the store to become a community destination for lunch and gatherings.
Instead of the soda vending machines that one might find at the entrances of other grocery stores, 365 features a teaBot machine that allows customers to brew custom cups of tea by selecting from 18 available blends. If a visitor stumbles on a recipe they really like, they can find it again later by checking the teaBot website.
The stores design emphasizes both a modern aesthetic and energy-efficient features. The whole building uses LED lighting, and the refrigerated and frozen sections all feature glass doors, even on the bins that might be open in other stores. Instead of using mist to keep vegetables cold, the produce section sits inside its own walk-in cooler.
Were able to keep this part of the store cool without keeping the entire store cool, said 365 spokeswoman Natanya Anderson.
The produce section also includes a pricing kiosk to help reduce the use of plastic bags. Many fruits and vegetables are priced by the each rather than by the pound, and the kiosk allows customers to look up prices and print their own labels that can be attached directly to the products and scanned at checkout.
The kiosk is intended to speed up the process, although Anderson adds that its not required bags are still available, and cashiers can look up the PLU numbers at the checkstand instead.
Another notable modern feature: The store does not use any paper price tags. Instead, each items price is displayed by a small digital panel, which can be adjusted and updated remotely and includes additional information such as whether a product is gluten-free. The panels use e-ink, the same kind of display found in Kindle e-readers, which consumes very little power. Store team leader Ben Kloch said the digital tags are a huge net savings when compared to the entire process of printing and hanging paper tags.
Wed rather have employees talking to customers than putting up tags, he said.
The high-tech approach also extends to the kitchen area, where visitors can use a series of kiosk terminals to order pizza, hot dogs (and carrot dogs), veggie bowls and other meals, which can then be picked up from the kitchen area at the back of the store. Customers can pay at the kiosks or print tickets to pay at checkout. The kiosks are located next to a large grab-and-go food section that includes two salad bars and several unique dishes, such as African peanut stew.
Customers will be able to participate in the My 365 Rewards loyalty program, which offers 10-percent discounts on different products from week to week and includes Buy 10, Get One Free punch cards for certain products, such as Evolution Fresh Juice, Driscolls Berries and rotisserie chicken.
We wanted to be sure we brought a healthy component to our punch cards, Anderson said.
Despite the speed required to renovate the building, Turnas said it was a straightforward process because the location was already a grocery store. He added that it was nice to be able to open a new store in an area where Whole Foods already has an established presence.
I think we can become a place where the community can come and spend time, Turnas told The Review. (365) is for Lake Oswego as much as it is for Silver Lake.