Swanky new Mega Foods trying something new

by Trevor Kupfer, Andrea Paulseth

In recent years, the local grocery superstore triad of Festival, Mega, and Gordy’s have been building up their brands and vying for the official stronghold on where Chippewa Vallians buy their food. The exhibition of one-up-manship recently included Festival’s aggressive expansion and Gordy’s taking over Ron’s and (a few years back) Copps. But with the opening of the new Mega Foods East today*, the grocery superstore battle has taken quite a turn. Instead of going for “bigger means better,” Mega seems to have drawn back to their roots and taken a hard look at the people they serve.

The company started in 1935 as a co-op located where Eastridge Center now lies. The new building is inspired by the original, with an arched roof, chalkboard signage, open work areas, and giant historical photos. The store also incorporates a modern industrial angle, with exposed ductwork, hanging light fixtures, lots of natural light, and a rich color scheme. But the thing I enjoyed most was the aisles, which got rid of numbers and instead use local street names.

They’ve also built the store based on shopping behaviors, so items that typically aren’t in the same area are paired here. Things like fresh breads and commercial breads, fresh seafood and frozen seafood, and olive oil with Italian (instead of the baking aisle). The endcaps include meal-making stations, where everything you’d need to make tacos or omelets are in one spot. And the aisles are organized from breakfast to dinner.

The other unique feature is something you’ll see right when you walk in. There’s fresh restaurant-style offerings (paninis, pizza, sushi, soup, salad, etc.) and a Caribou Coffee, with a relaxing spot between them that has lots of seating, a fireplace, and a TV. Not surprisingly, the new store incorporates more organic and local options (and gives them prime placement spots on shelves).

Zigging when others zag is a bold move, and one that makes you either innovative or irrelevant. In this case, Mega is trying to lead a shift – at the supermarket level – bringing our food focus back to the neighborhood level.

* This is the soft opening. The “official” opening will be in eight weeks, when the other store is torn down and replaced by a parking lot.

The in-store Caribou Coffee.
The in-store Caribou Coffee.

Grab your Rice-A-Roni on Eddy Lane.
Grab your Rice-A-Roni on Eddy Lane.

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