At just over 16,000 square feet, the new store will be similar in size to The Sweet Potato’s existing 17,000-square-foot store on Vine Avenue. It will have approximately 50 dedicated parking spaces, and employ approximately 65 full-time staff, says Dorfman.
Dorfman says he regularly receives messages from people who have moved out of the Junction pleading with him to expand into their town or neighbourhood. “The Vine [Avenue] location is pretty solid, so we started thinking about what we could do if we opened a second location and what it would look like in terms of operations, in terms of business challenges.
“One of the main motivating factors was that our mission statement, which is to provide people with natural food at the best possible prices, and provide reasonable compensation to farmers, becomes even more possible if we have a second or even a third location.”
Expansion will increase The Sweet Potato's buying power and allow it lower some of its prices, says Dorfman. “It’s going to be an adventure for us, and it actually allows us to do what we do even better, so why would we not take on the challenge?”
Dorfman says the main objective for The Sweet Potato is staying ahead of the curve when it comes to factors like sustainability. “We don’t think we’re ever going to be a giant in the industry, but we want to be at the cutting-edge and to be driving change,” he says. “If we can make it work, it pushes the bigger guys to follow suit.”
The company is currently in discussion with some vertical farm operators about a possible hybrid store/farm model, for example, and expects that all of the packaging used in its store(s) will be fully recyclable by the end of the year.
The Sweet Potato is also focusing on growing its private-label brand Fine Wholesome Goods, which is oriented around what Dorfman describes as “high-quality [products] with aggressive pricing.”
The company expects to launch between four and five product lines over the next year, and potentially even introducing some of the items produced in its kitchen in a more shelf-stable format.
The company is working with Watt International on the store design. “We’re very happy with the design we’ve come up with,” says Dorfman, who says the company has enlisted a local graphic artist to create a distinctive mural on the store’s exit corridor.