Lexington, KY – In a strong showing of responsibility – environmental, social and financial -
Good Foods Market & CafÈ on Southland Drive recently completed a massive six-month overhaul and expansion of its interior space.
The co-op added more than 1,700 square feet of space after leasing a section from the former Advance Auto shop, bringing the total interior to nearly 20,000 square feet. The two major beneficiaries of the added room were the cafÈ and the kitchen. The cafÈ, which was busting at the seams during lunch hours, now has expanded seating. The kitchen, which was performing at maximum efficiency, now has more elbow room, as well as new and refurbished appliances for creating more services in the future, such as more grab ‘n go products and catering.
The additional footage also opened up opportunities for other improvements to the services the store offers, such as a permanent bakery, increased freezer space, a larger soup station, more meat selections, a new dairy case, a revamped wellness department, a larger community room, and more grocery space – just to name a few. The aisles were also shifted 90 degrees for a more logical flow to complement the registers’ placement.
“Basically we changed every square foot of retail space,” Good Foods general manager Anne Hopkins said.
This isn’t the first time Hopkins has watched over the store’s transformation on Southland Drive. In 1999, the shop moved to its current location (the shop had been in two locations on Southland since originally moving there in 1986), and in 2002, 2,500 square feet was added to make room for the cafÈ.
This recent addition has actually been in the works for over three years, when Good Foods began soliciting suggestions and input from its owners (all 5,000 of them) and staff. “A lot of people wanted certain things and there was concern about what we were doing. And, why we were doing it,” Hopkins said. “So the process of listening to everybody took a long time for us, but we feel really comfortable that we came up with the best product.”
The idea of closing up shop during the renovation was never on the table, and customer needs always trumped construction demands. Instead, the work was done in phases. All of the grocer’s services were always available throughout the store, although sometimes in a limited capacity, but progress was not as swift. “It’s taken us six months since the first day of construction,” Hopkins said. “If we could have just shut down and said, ‘Go to it,’ it would have been a lot less time, but then we wouldn’t have been able to serve our customers.”
The intricate planning of the phases, however, served its purpose: Construction work was completed on the exact day that had been set prior to groundbreaking, Hopkins said.
Because customer satisfaction was the greatest concern during the renovation, a lot of the heavy work had to be completed at night. Still, because work was done in phases, there were many instances when products had to be temporarily relocated during the six months of construction, which can be very trying for a dedicated and loyal shopper. Hopkins said the customers took the obstacles in stride.
“Our customers and owners were very gracious,” she said. “We’d move things all over, they’d come in and go, ‘OK, where is it this week?’ But they were good about it; most of them realized what was going to happen while we were in the midst of this.”
And while customer satisfaction was a hallmark during construction, Hopkins said that ensuring all the work and new additions were as environmentally conscious as their budget would allow was also a pillar of the project. As much waste as possible was either recycled or reused, and some of the new features incorporated into the renovation were new energy efficient lights, light censors, floor tiles made from recycled material, Energy-Star rated appliances, low-flow spray heads for produce, low VOC paints and window coating.
The goal is to become LEED certified. “We’ve been pretty conscientious. It’s even in our policies, if it’s within 10 percent of cost, we always defer to something that’s more socially and environmentally responsible,” said store manager Dan Arnett, who was also the project manager for the renovation.
Funding for the $1.5 million project was secured through three avenues: retaining three years’ worth of owner patronage rebates, borrowing money from the co-op’s 5,000 owners, and a bank loan. The first two options were able to offset the amount of money needed from the bank, and total costs came in under budget. “When we actually had to go to the bank, we only had to borrow less than a third of the project cost,” Hopkins said.
This financial dexterity not only kept Good Foods from acquiring large amounts of debt, it also allowed the co-op’s owners a chance to take stock in the business and help mold its future.
“It was a great thing for our owners to realize that they own this business,” Hopkins said. “Any small, private business out there, the owners have to put their money into it, and at the end of the year, if they have any profit, then they have to decide if they are going to take that profit or if they’re going to plow it back into the business. Well, we’ve got 5,000 owners and they’ve had to learn. That’s what a co-op is, it’s a group of people that can do a bigger thing than they can by themselves.”
Good Foods Market & CafÈ is located at 455 Southland Dr. For more information, visit www.goodfoods.coop.