Stong's Market opened the doors to its latest store in North Vancouver late last month.
And according to Cori Bonina, president, the newest Stong’s Market is dramatically different from the former Dunbar store, which closed earlier last month.
For starters, at 22,500 sq.ft., it’s more than twice its size. The Northwoods store is operated by 110 staff, and Bonina’s 23-year-old son Carson is the front-end manager—the fifth generation to enter this family-run business since it opened its doors in 1931.
At one time Stong’s had five stores, but closed four of them, including the North Vancouver store in the early 1990s due to tough competitive times.
It’s still tough, maybe even tougher now as Stong’s joins a litany of other grocers in relatively close proximity, including Save-On- Foods, Loblaws, Thrifty’s, Safeway, IGA and soon Whole Foods and Choices Markets. Bonina says Stong's won’t be competing on price, but following the formula of the Dunbar store and carving out a niche through service, selection, quality and online shopping.
“We are a different market. We offer what Whole Foods does but at competitive prices and we also offer all the traditional products as well,” says Bonina adding that she’s not concerned by the nearby Superstore. “We are not going to get into a price war with them, we have a different offering and we are competitive where we need to be.”
Bonina spent two years working with Tesser, a brand strategy, retail and graphic design firm out of San Francisco to design a different sort of grocery store.
Bonina says the design, which includes concrete floors, exposed ceilings and lots of wood, is intended to be more European village than grocery store. Regulars will notice the addition of an in-store florist called Stems that sits at the entrance.
Edibles, the deli, stocks a large selection of home replacement meals from Cori’s Kitchen. There is a panini counter and pizza oven, as well as a sushi counter with a chef, and a patisserie with its own baker.
Stong’s has also added a café called Replenish that has both indoor and outdoor seating.
“We are sourcing local products, small manufacturers that no one else carries and we are saying to people whatever you don’t see that you want, we’ll bring it in for you,” Bonina says, noting that coffee is purchased from a local company called Milano, and they’ve just introduced a hand-made line of shortbread from Rose’s Shortbread in North Vancouver.
The store is located in Northwoods, an industrial park in a newly developed area near the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge. Stong’s will open a new store in Vancouver this winter a few blocks away from the old Dunbar location. It’s not quite as big as the North Vancouver store, but at 20,000 sq.ft., it’s significantly larger than the digs it replaces.