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Readers Primarily Grocery Shop At Large Supermarkets

August 14, 2019 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Readers Primarily Grocery Shop At Large Supermarkets

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was to see where readers get their groceries. No surprise, large supermarkets was the top answer.

Local supermarket chain Dierbergs, 12599 Olive. 2015 photo

Here are the results:

Q: What are the three types of places where you get most of your food? Purchased in store or delivered.

  1. Full-service large supermarket (Dierbergs, Schnucks, Whole Foods): 21 [29.58%]
  2. Discount Grocery Chain (ALDI, Ruler, etc): 11 [15.49%]
  3. Medium Grocery (Culinaria, Straub’s, Trader Joe’s, Fields Foods, Lucky’s, Fresh Thyme, etc.): 10 [14.08%]
  4. Big Box (Target, Walmart, etc): 9 [12.68%]
  5. Warehouse (Costco, Sam’s): 7 [9.86%]
  6. Farmers’ market (Soulard, Tower Grove, etc): 6 [8.45%]
  7. TIE: 2 [2.82%]
    1. Mail order (Amazon, meal kits, etc)
    2. N/A – I eat out
  8. TIE: : 1 [1.41%]
    1. Convenience store (7-11, QT, etc)
    2. Local/small grocer (Local Harvest Grocery , Vincents, etc.
    3. Other: Grow it
  9. TIE: 0 [0%]
    1. Drug Store (CVS, Walgreens)
    2. Food Pantry
    3. Food Co-op
    4. International grocer (Jay’s, etc)

What’s interesting to me is the rise of ALDI. Last week I noted the new ALDI at Gravois Plaza, replacing the South Grand location, was my new favorite grocery store in the city.

Aldi has more than 1,800 stores in 35 states and is focused on growing in the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic, Florida and California. It’s on track to become America’s third largest supermarket chain behind Walmart and Kroger, with 2,500 stores by the end of 2022. Its close competitor Lidl, another German grocer with a similar low-cost business model, is racing to grow in the United States, too. (CNN)

I’ve been hearing about the other German grocery chain mention above, Lidl. In 2017 they planned to open their first 100 stores in America, starting on the East coast.  But they had problems and didn’t reach their goal.  It may be some time before they reach St. Louis, if at all.

Schnucks family members cutting the ribbon at Culinaria on August 11, 2009

The grocery business operates on very slim profit margins and competition in most of the region is fierce. Other parts of St. Louis are food deserts.

“There’s a cultural aspect to food,” said Tosha Phonix, food justice organizer for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “People don’t know how to cook.”

Studies back up those claims. One, from 2015, found putting government-subsidized grocery stores in low-access neighborhoods did little to change people’s diets. Another, from the National Bureau for Economic Research, found education and income levels were much more indicative of people’s food behaviors than proximity to a supermarket.

Community-led solutions and education are key to making people healthier, Phonix said.

“The grocery stores aren’t coming back,” she said. Alternative models of stores, such as farmers markets and co-ops, can assure investment stays within a neighborhood, she said.

“If you own what is in your community, no one can say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be here’ and move out. It will be the community’s. The community will benefit from it, and it will go back into the communities.” (St. Louis Public Radio)

It’ll be interesting to watch as change continues in the grocery space over the coming years.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Where Do You Get Your Food?

August 11, 2019 Featured, Retail, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Where Do You Get Your Food?
Please vote below

It was ten years ago today that Schucks Markets opened their smaller urban format store, called Culinaria, in downtown St  Louis.

From August 11, 2009:

Culinaria – A Schnucks Market opened this morning at 315 North 9th Street. The store features a 21,000-square-foot main floor and a 6,000-square-foot mezzanine.  (Riverfront Times)

This was much smaller than their newer stores, from May 2018:

A Schnucks spokesman said the chain’s stores average over 60,000 square feet, but their size varies according to location, age and the customer base — ranging from the Culinaria location to stores exceeding 130,000 square feet. “We have several stores that are ‘smaller’ formats, some because of space limitations such as Culinaria (an urban format with limited space) and others because they were built many years ago when the typical supermarket was much smaller,” he said. (Supermarket News)

Culinaria has changed a lot over the last decade, primarily the product mix is much better than it was when it first opened. For a while I’ve been able to buy various King Arthur flours, recently they added Chinese hot mustard.

However, today’s non-scientific poll isn’t directly about Culinaria…at least not directly. Today’s poll is about where your food, primarily groceries, come from. Whether you go to a particular store, or have groceries delivered from there, it counts the same.  This is more about the types of stores where you shop, the answers are randomized.

Today’s poll closes at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

My Favorite Grocery Store In The City of St. Louis: ALDI Gravois Plaza

August 5, 2019 Featured, Planning & Design, Retail Comments Off on My Favorite Grocery Store In The City of St. Louis: ALDI Gravois Plaza

I remember my first time entering an ALDI grocery store. It was the early 90s, I’d just moved to St. Louis and was looking for work. They were hiring for management positions. So I went to the location that was on the southeast corner of Jefferson & Lafayete.

The interior lighting was awful, the packaged food all contained questionable ingredients, and they only accepted cash  — not even debit cards. The management positions required relocation, which didn’t interest me. I also wasn’t interested in becoming a shopper.

In the late 90s or so living in Dutchtown & Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods I would occasionally shop at the ALDI on South Grand (1992) or Gravois near Kingshighway (1997), though what I’d buy was very limited.  I’d usually shop at the Shop-n-Save at Gravois Plaza, or the Schnucks at Loughborough Commons.

Then in late 2007 I moved to Downtown West and, in early 2008, had a massive stroke. In  February 2013 my then-boyfriend moved in with me — we needed more food on a budget.

Over the last few years I’ve become a huge fan of German  grocery store chain ALDI. Because of their limited selection it’s not the only place we buy groceries, but we go once a month to stock up. Each week is a big stock up trip: ALDI, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Target. In between I get a few items at Culinaria 2-3 times per week.   Yesterday was the first weekend of the month, so I went to ALDI.

The nearest ALDI to our apartment is at Natural Bridge & Grand (1999). I’ve shopped there once in the last year. It was ok. I’ve also  been to the ALDI in Jennings a few times. However, usually I would drive to the newer ALDI at Delmar & Kingshighway (2013).

When Shop-n-Save closed up all their remaining locations (2017) I wondered how long that space would stay vacant. A few years earlier the ALDI on Grand wanted to take over the former McDonald’s location, closing the street between them, so they could build a new store. Thankfully they weren’t allowed to close Phillips Place.

So it was no surprise when ALDI announced they were taking part of the former Shop-n-Save location. When I first went to the new location after it opened I was very glad it adopted their new interior design that we’d seen in a newish ALDI in St. Louis County.

In older ALDI stores produce is hidden in a back corner far from the entrance. Their new design puts it right up front.
The black ceiling and LED lighting give a much more upscale appearance.

While the new location is a very pleasant shopping experience, getting here isn’t easy for pedestrians. Most weeks we do our bulk shopping together with our car. There have been weeks, depending upon my husband’s work schedule,  where I use transit to get essentials. If that occurs on an ALDI week/weekend, I’ll have to go back to Kingshighway & Delmar. I’ve posted before how Gravois Plaza has zero ADA-compliance accessible routes from public sidewalks to any building on site. The newish Wendy’s is the only exception.

Red arrows show the many pedestrian routes with no provisions, the one green arrow is for the Wendy’s. Click map above to see December 2013 post

The previous ALDI was great for pedestrians, right up to the sidewalk with a bus stop right out front on the busy #70 bus.

The now-closed ALDI at 3701 S. Grand.

b

This is the corner of the old Shop-n-Save where ALDI is now located. October 2014 photo
In December 2018 the corner blocks had been removed.
In February 2019 the corner began resembling other ALDI stores.
We first shopped at the new ALDI on March 27, 2019

Even though it’s my favorite favorite grocery store, for now, it is not perfect. Most ALDI stores have disabled parking next to the building, allowing us to walk into the store without needing to cross a busy drive. Here the disabled parking is out front — meaning I must cross the main drive for the entire shopping center. When exiting the store and going to our car with a cart I have to work really hard to keep the cart from dragging me into the drive/lot faster than I can walk — the slope doesn’t appear that drastic, but it is. So I have to walk slower across the drive.

The store is still compact compared to other supermarkets, but this ALDI feels more spacious than older ALDI locations. Yesterday afternoon it was very busy. We even saw at least six Instacart food delivery shoppers in the store!  That’s one way to get around trying to access the store as a pedestrian/transit user.

We’ve been very pleased with everything we’ve bought — except cold dill pickles in the deli case. I still have to read labels as some items still contain high-fructose corn syrup. Very glad they accept all major credit cards and have ApplePay at registers.  Hopefully at some point pedestrian access will be retrofitted at Gravois Plaza.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Union Station Made Right Decision To Ditch Failed Retail Mall

July 17, 2019 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Readers: Union Station Made Right Decision To Ditch Failed Retail Mall

St. Louis Union Station, built in 1894, has an interesting history.

By the last decade of the 19th century St. Louis found itself in an increasingly important role as “The Gateway To The West” since it lay at the conjunction of the mighty Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  The Transcontinental Railroad had been finished just over 20 years prior and new lines were still being built across the Frontier.  In addition, many eastern and western trunk lines, or their future subsidiaries, terminated at the city such as the Iron Mountain & Southern (Missouri Pacific); Wabash; Ohio & Mississippi (Baltimore & Ohio), Louisville & Nashville; Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis (the “Big Four” controlled by the New York Central); St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco); Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy); New York, Chicago & St. Louis (Nickel Plate Road); and Pennsylvania.  Following the Civil War, a growing St. Louis expanded to the point that it boasted the nation’s fourth largest metropolitan region behind only New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. (American Rails)

This was St. Louis’ second Union Station, the first was quickly outgrown. Additional tracks were added on the west side of the shed within the first decade — to accommodate increased passengers for the 1904 World’s Fair. The train was how people got from city to city at the time.

The beauty of Carl Milles’ work with Union Station in the background
Grand Hall in St. Louis Union Station, 2010

Passenger volume peaked in the 1940s, dropping off steadily after that as improved cars, highways, and air travel shifted how people got from city to city. St. Louis Union Station closed completely in 1978, the vacant station was then used in filming scenes from the post-apocalyptic (1997) film Escape From New York (1981).

The month I began my first semester of college, studying architecture, Union Station reopened as a “festival marketplace.” That was a fancy way of saying a speciality mall without a department store anchor(s). Though the retail mall was only a portion of the space under the massive train shed, that was a big part of the image.  At the time it was hailed as a way to reuse large historic properties.

Union Station had only been reopened for 5 years when I moved here in August 1990. I remember my excitement finally getting to experience what I’d only read about in college. The original retail mix was good — lots of well-known stores. One of my favorites was Kansas City-based Function Junction — I still have a tray purchased there in November 1990.

Also in 1985 a huge mall opened in the main Central Business District — connecting two large department stores. St. Louis Union Station’s retail mall was very different from the large St. Louis Centre mall. Like many other malls across the country, both failed. Prime tenants gave way to tourist t-shirt shops, eventually there were more vacancies than shops.

Vacant retail spaces in the midway, 2011

St. Louis Union Station’s current owners bought the property after the retail mall was on life support, they made the correct decision to pull the plug.  Not sure if the coming aquarium, Ferris wheel, and other attractions will be sustainable — but I appreciate their bold decisions.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll a majority agreed dumping the retail mall was the right decision.

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis Union Station should’ve updated the retail mall & food court rather than switch to an aquarium.

  • Strongly agree: 1 [1.75%]
  • Agree: 3 [5.26%]
  • Somewhat agree: 6 [10.53%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 2 [3.51%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [5.26%]
  • Disagree: 15 [26.32%]
  • Strongly disagree: 27 [47.37%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

I personally look forward to riding the Ferris wheel on a clear day so I can enjoy the views and take hundreds of photos.

— Steve Patterson

 

My Visit To Fields Foods in Downtown West

July 1, 2019 Downtown, Featured, Retail Comments Off on My Visit To Fields Foods in Downtown West

Back in April I visited a new grocery store located in a building I could see from my windows/balcony for over 11 years. Naturally a very convenient grocery store didn’t open until after I moved.

December 2008: the then-CPI building on the left as seen from my balcony

The CPI building at 17th & Washington is now known as The Monogram. It has apartments on the upper floors, and now a Fields Foods on the ground floor.

A new ramp on Washington Ave for ADA accessibility
Good produce selection, right at the entry.
Deli and all the usual items you’ll find at their original location on Lafayette.

I don’t recall now what I bought, but I do remember they hadn’t been open long and they had ApplePay working — very important to me.  Like their original, prices on some things are lower than other stores, while others are higher. When I was car-free I would’ve gladly paid a little more for the convenience.

I suspect many of my old neighbors will continue to shop where they had been if they’re already out in their cars. If you’re used to driving to ALDI or Costco to stock up you’re not going to like shopping here. However, if you’d rather make frequent walking trips then this will be a great addition to the neighborhood.

I wish them well!  Fields Foods’ Downtown West location is at 1706 Washington Ave.

— Steve Patterson

 

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