White Hen Pantry has introduced a prototype in Northborough, Mass., that shatters the mold of its previous convenience offering. The 3,200-square-foot store offers some elements of traditional convenience stores, but goes upscale with a full-service cafe and deli, fresh foods, baked goods and a wide assortment of healthier snack with a heavy emphasis on natural, organic and soy products.
The Pantry Gourmet opened its doors this week, said Chris Brosco, the company’s director of marketing and merchandising, and it is targeting consumers looking for healthy food items in a convenience format
“It’s for people who are used to shopping at Whole Foods Market,” Brosco told The Daily News (Mass.) Tribune “It’s kind of Starbuck-y in the front and Panera in the middle. We’re trying to combine all the aspects of those good companies in one store.”
White Hen Pantry has been developing the concept for nearly two years. Executives sought ideas during a trip to New York City and its many small specialty shops and neighborhood markets such as Dean & DeLuca, Gourmet Garage, Garden of Eden and Pax Wholesome Foods. One particular merchandise category borrowed from the Big Apple is a small housewares section with dish towels, kitchen utensils and plastic storage containers, the report said.
Coffee has a strong presence in the new store. White Hen Pantry sells its own brand of coffee, but for Pantry Gourmet, the company brought in the Chock full o’ Nuts brand for its cafe section. Across the store is an organic whole-bean coffee dispensing display from Hogan Brothers of Framingham.
There’s little evidence that White Hen Pantry is behind the concept. Some wrapped sandwiches bore White Hen Pantry price tags but other than that the only connection is the tiny “@ White Hen” line on the store’s logo, a mere footnote to the prominent Pantry Gourmet brand.
“We just tried to not have the (White Hen Pantry) concept carry over. It’s a clean slate, let the cards fall where they may,” Brosco said, noting that company research indicated the White Hen brand had to take a back seat.
Brosco said New England Pantry Inc., which owns the 56 White Hen Pantry stores in New England, plans to open four more of the stores by early 2009. 7-Eleven Inc. operates the White Hen Pantry brand in the Midwest.
Going forward, White Hen Pantry will be tweaking things at Pantry Gourmet going forward, based in part on customer feedback. “It’s an experiment, obviously,” Brosco said. “It’s the first store.”