open pantrys upscale creations

Years ago, communities had little voice in whether a store would be built.But as markets grew more saturated, communities felt as though they were losingtheir identities.

"Today, four or five people sit on a board and make the decision whether astore will be built," says Jim Fiene, senior vice president of Open Pantry FoodMarts of Wisconsin (Pleasant Prairie, WI). "The colors and types of materialsyou use have to be conducive to what they're asking for, which makes it mucheasier to get approvals through planning commissions and city officials."

Open Pantry has been sculpting its interior offer for some time now, integratingnew color schemes and materials to enhance its Willow Creek Coffee Bars (seeOpen Pantry's 'Golden Egg,' August '05, p. 8). This, in turn, has ledthe chain to rethink its exterior package. A more costly venture, but worthit to see a store built and making money rather than tied up in litigation.

"The stores we're building now are more like high-end homes," says Fiene. "Weuse castle stone work on the outside with neutral stucco, and there are a lotof different pitches to the roofs and lines. It all adds to the cost of buildinga store, but it differentiates us. Customers don't just prefer to shop a storelike that, they're proud to. Someone is giving up customers to us and that reinforcesthe investment and encourages us to do it in other stores."

Seven of Open Pantry's 34 stores now offer its upgraded interior offering,while the chain has two ground-ups on the market that have a full-fledged newdesign inside and out. Open Pantry hopes to have the rest of its stores transitionedto the new looks by the end of 2006.

The chain's latest prototype, however, takes the idea of a high-end home literally.As Open Pantry looked to enter even more upscale communities, company PresidentRobert A. Buhler wanted to create a prototype that borrowed design elementsfrom a Frank Lloyd Wright home he once owned. After being open just eight weeks,Fiene says, the store's design is an impressive addition to the chain's arsenaland will give Open Pantry the key to many doors that will be locked to othercompanies.

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