Choices Markets opened its eleventh location to a waiting crowd at the Friday afternoon launch of its North Vancouver store on July 29.
The new store is in for some tough competition. It shares a back wall with a Thrifty Foods, and there’s a Save-On-Foods just a stone’s throw away. A Loblaw’s City Market operates on nearby Lonsdale Avenue, and a new Whole Foods store is slated to open next year.
But Tyler Romano, marketing manager, isn’t worried. He says that the chain’s roots as a family-owned business, its focus on organic and specialty foods, as well as its emphasis on partnerships with local suppliers will help them to stand out from the competition.
“Fortunately for us, we do things on a different scale,” he says. “There seems to be a pretty good identity with the brand already. People understand what we’re about.”
Choices uses wall and window space throughout the new store to communicate its commitment to local growers, its independent ownership, and an emphasis on healthy living.
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Choices stores range in size between 6,000 and 20,000 square feet. The North Vancouver store is a compact 12,000 square feet.
“We’ve always been a smaller, more intimate grocer,” explains Romano. “We are a little bit more grass roots.”
The wellness section is a small, but prominent area of the store. Tall shelves hold an array of natural body and face care solutions, supplements, proteins and superfoods. Shelagh Guinane, holistic nutritionist, is the healthcare manager and is joined by a trained herbalist.
One of Choices points of differentiation are free in-store tours led by dietitians and nutritionists. The tours cover everything from plant-based diets and navigating GMOs, to catering to individual interests such as reducing cholesterol or foods for cancer prevention.
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Romano says Choices typically has a product mix of around 70% organic to 30% traditional food, but the North Vancouver store may skew higher because of an agreement with a nearby Mac’s Convenience store that they won’t sell conventional milk, soft drinks or snack foods.
Choices worked with a North Vancouver designer to develop a distinctive West Coast style for the store that features murals of the mountains and forest. It also showcases the building’s natural features, such as unfinished ceilings, wood and massive cedar poles that were covered with white drywall and have now been restored to their natural state.
“The building had a lot of woodwork and an unfinished look to it when we took it over,” says Romano. “We sandblasted the store, we sealed in the wood, but we kept that natural West Coast beauty.”
Romano says Choices is targeting September 21 for the store’s grand opening.