Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Breaking News: New-Wave, Hybrid Food-Grocery-Convenience Store 'Locali Conscious Convenience' to Open Tomorrow in Hollywood, California

Locali Conscious Convenience, the first unit of the small-format, "green" and locally-focused hybrid grocery-convenience stores of what retailing entrepreneurs Melissa Rosen and husband Greg Horos hope to soon grow into a chain, opens tomorrow (Thursday, January 22) at 5825 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, California, co-founder and co-partner Melissa Rosen tells Fresh & Easy Buzz.

We first reported on and wrote about the new, innovative format and store's development in this piece ['Locali Conscious Convenience:' New Small-Format Hybrid Convenience-Grocery Store Coming to Hollywood, California] on September 11, 2008.

The retail entrepreneurs had originally planned to open the store in late fall of 2008. However in December, 2008 they decided to wait until the first of the year to open the market, which puts a major emphasis on selling natural, organic and locally-produced convenience-oriented food and grocery items across multiple categories, because they wanted to time the opening with the start of the new year. "A new year, a fresh start, a new, fresh concept," is how co-owner Melissa Rosen described the decision to Fresh & Easy Buzz.

The small-format, eco-grocery and convenience market is only about 1,000 square feet. However the retailers are packing a wide-assortment of products into the space. The market is designed to be super-convenient yet extremely "green" in terms of its design and approach to convenience retailing. It's a neighborhood convenience market, designed to serve local neighborhoods and to promote and sell locally-produced products, although it will sell some non-local items as well.

" Our goal is to build a chain similar to 7-11, but on a smaller, sustainable scale, Melissa Rosen told Fresh & Easy Buzz in an interview.

"We would like to bring our healthy, fun and delicious food and beverages, eco-friendly home and lifestyle products, and outstanding/reasonably priced organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines, beers and sake to a diverse array of communities across the country. Our stores will continue to built in an eco and energy efficient manner and will vary in interior only with regards to the reclaimed wood used in the build out. While it is Douglas Fir for our first Southern California store, other locations will be furnished with reclaimed version of their own native woods."

"While other environmentally friendly convenience store/fuel stations like The Green Spot Market are pursuing a wonderful concept of making convenience stories healthier by selling organic and natural foods, our concept is different. Instead of making convenience stores more healthy, we want to make a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle more convenient to pursue," Rosen added in response to a question about what in our analysis is a small but growing trend towards eco-convenience stores, which we wrote about in our September 11, 2008 story.

"This begins with our offering of consumer compost recycling and reverse osmosis filtered water for reusable bottle fill up. No petroleum based plastic bottled water will be for sale in our store," Rosen says.

"It also includes selling practical and affordable eco-friendly household items and gadgets that aid in individual conservation. In an ideal world, it would be lovely if we could all sit down for a two hour slow food organic meal daily, but our daily realities are usually far different. Locali acknowledges and embraces the need for fast foods in our increasingly harried (and budget tightening) world. To that end, we will offer an array of pre-packed healthy meals from local food artisans and restaurants, unique glass bottled juices and beverages, and a small array of kitchen staples including organic rice milk, cage-free eggs, seasonal produce, grains, olive oils and more."

In addition, Melissa Rosen says Locali Conscious Convenience will offer vegan and dairy homestead cheeses, crackers and spreads, natural snacks (popcorn, chips, nutritional bars, trail mix, etc.) and a selection of fresh, prepared soups, deli salads and sandwiches, and other ready-to-eat prepared foods.

"In the mornings, we will serve high-fiber muffins, cold and hot cereals, toast, hard boiled eggs and gluten-free bagels and muffins. We will serve fair trade organic coffee and wild harvested yerba mate throughout the day. In terms of wine, beer and sake, we will favor domestic organic, sustainable and biodynamic brands. In terms of the microbrews, they will be altering seasonally and you will be able to create your own pack based on taste," Rosen says in describing additional merchandising aspects of the the hybrid, convenience-oriented eco-market.

Melissa Rosen also tells Fresh & Easy Buzz she plans to involve the store, and future stores, in a wide-variety of community-based activities. "Another aspect (of the retailer's plans) that will be interesting is to see the (community) response to the litany of community initiatives we are planning," she says. "We're planning to have regular workshops on wellness, environmental and sustainability concerns. Our vendor sponsors are extremely excited about these plans because it will offer them a greater connection to the consumer than say through "the sample lady route".

Tomorrow's opening of the Hollywood store will be a soft opening, Rosen says. The retailer's contractors are still completing some last minute touches to the store. However, according to Rosen, the owners wanted to get the store open with the soft opening despite these minor contractor completion issues because they are excited to kick the store off in the first month of the new year. The new year, fresh start, new store concept focus we mentioned earlier.

The husband and wife retailing entrepreneurs are working with commercial real estate giant Cushman & Wakefield in a strategic process in which they are lining up additional store sites, first in Southern California, for future Locali Conscious Convenience store locations. The main focus right now though is to get the Hollywood store up and running and to build the business there first. Rosen says. Plans call for both future company-owned stores, as well as franchising to independent owners, Rosen says.

"Strategically we are completely focused on the first store. But we are working with Cushman & Wakefield on expansion plans. Alisi Mataele of Cushman & Wakefield is our guardian angel. She found us the amazing and affordable location for our first store and she introduced us to Leslie Mayer, Executive Director of Retail Services at Cushman & Wakefield. They have been extremely generous with advice as we approach our opening on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood," Rosen tells Fresh & Easy Buzz.

In developing its format and opening the first store tomorrow, Locali Conscious Convenience is building on a number of recent and current trends in food and grocery retailing. Those trends include more small-format stores, more hybridization between the conventional C-store and grocery store retailing formats ( more blending of the two), increased focus on neighborhood-oriented retailing, added retailer and consumer focus on locally-produced products and on shopping with retailers that offer such local products, the "green" movement, and a decade long trend towards more healthy natural and organic foods.

It will be key however for Locali Conscious Convenience to offer the food and grocery items, including the fresh, prepared foods offerings, it sells in its first store, as well as in future stores, at affordable prices. In this severe recession even committed natural foods consumers are trading down, looking for the value.

Shoppers will pay more in good times for convenience and "green" and healthy attributes and products. However, right now the premium most shoppers are willing to pay at stores that offer these attributes is a small one. If Locali Conscious Convenience can combine its innovation at the Hollywood store with offering affordable prices, which co-founder Melissa Rosen tells us is a key strategic focus for the retailer, we think its chances of succeeding are fairly high.

Additionally, the hybrid grocery-convenience eco-store concept should play well in Hollywood, where Tesco's Fresh & Easy also has one store. The city's young and hip -- and in many cases "green" -- residents should form a solid base for Locali Conscious Convenience. Fresh & Easy's Hollywood store, although different in concept than Locali but is alternative in many ways to traditional supermarkets and convenience stores, has proved most popular with consumers in the 18-35 age range, for example.

The Hollywood Locali Conscious Convenience store opens tomorrow morning, according to Rosen. Since it is a soft opening tomorrow there won't be a grand opening celebration. However, plans call for one soon.

Store Address:
Locali Conscious Convenience
5825 Franklin Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068


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