Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New Website and Blog

We have launched a new website! Please check it out: www.peoplescommunitymarket.com

With this new website we're also launching a new blog that is contained within the website: www.peoplescommunitymarket.com/blog/.

We will no longer be posting on Blogger so please subscribe to our new blog.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Detroit Grocer Exemplifies Serving Community - Part 2

When MetroFoodland first opened 26 years ago the independent grocery store didn't have a particular focus on offering healthier foods options or providing supports and education for improving customer health. But over time MetroFoodland has gradually evolved its business priorities toward supporting its customers' health and is demonstrating key innovations in how grocers can have a positive impact. 

It all started when a customer asked Mr. Hooks if his store had any natural juices. At the time MetroFoodland didn't carry any natural beverages - just things like soda and beverages with artificial ingredients and sweeteners. But, as a grocer that responds to his customer's request, Mr. Hooks began to carry natural juice. To his surprise the juices sold far better than he had ever anticipated. This told him that his customers were beginning to want to healthier food options. So Mr. hooks began to add more natural beverage products. Gradually his customers began to ask the store to carry other healthy food items. This got Mr. Hooks thinking that he could do more to not only support his customers health, but to strengthen his customer base and his store's sales.

And so began a journey of change for MetroFoodland that, in 2010, culminated in a complete resetting of the store's shelves in which, after working with a team of dieticians for a year, about 1/3 of its products were eliminated and replaced with healthier items. Then Mr. Hooks began looking for ways that he could support his customers to buy even more of the healthier foods he now carried. He partnered with local celebrity Chef Shannon Wilson to offer cooking classes and demonstrations, stores tours and healthy recipes. And he posted a variety of resources on MetroFoodland's website including a healthy food shopping list.

Then Mr. Hooks implemented what's likely MetroFoodland's greatest innovation in supporting customer health: the MetroFoodland Healthy Rewards Club. While most supermarkets have a rewards card program nowadays, the key difference in MetroFoodland's rewards card is that it's geared toward encouraging and rewarding healthy eating behavior. All of the healthy food products in the store feature a special tag which indicates that customers will receive points for purchasing those particular products. Customers receive one point for each penny they spend on qualifying items. Once a customer has earned 10,000 points (which is $100 in spending) they receive a $10 credit on their next purchase. This credit can be redeemed for discounts on the purchase of additional healthy food items.

What's most significant about the MetroFoodland Healthy Rewards Club is that, to our knowledge, it's the first rewards card program in the country to be targeted toward encouraging healthier behavior. Since other reward card programs are geared at encouraging the same shopping behavior that a customer already has - which includes purchasing unhealthy products - MetroFoodland's program is a major departure from the dominant industry trend. In addition to encouraging customers to purchase healthier food items the MetroFoodland Healthy Rewards Club helps make it more affordable to buy those healthier foods buy providing exclusive discounts on such products.

While the MetroFoodland Healthy Rewards Club has only been an active program for a few months Mr. Hooks believes it will have a significant on both customer's food choices and on his store's bottom line. He believes this, in part, because he has already observed that having a stronger health focus provides his store with a unique source of differentiation from other area grocers. And that makes all the difference for an independent grocer striving to deeply serve its communities while staying competitive against larger chain stores.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Detroit Grocer Exemplifies Serving Community - Part 1

James Hooks is not well-known in the food retail industry. For the last 26 years Mr. Hooks has owned and operated a relatively small (24,500 square feet) grocery store on the outskirts of Detroit called MetroFoodland. Despite his modest position in the immense grocery business of today, Mr. Hooks is one of its most pioneering members and exemplifies many of the qualities that we, at People's Community Market, believe define a true community grocer.

Metro Foodland is the only African-American owned and operated full-service supermarket in all of Detroit. Mr. Hooks bought the store in 1984 when Kroger Supermarket, where he had worked as a store manager, decided to pull out of lower-income markets in the Detroit area (to this day Detroit doesn't have a single supermarket operated by a national chain). But, thanks to Mr. Hooks' vision and commitment, residents of Detroit are fortunate to have a locally-owned and independent supermarket that caters to their needs and cares deeply for their well being and satisfaction.

Metro Foodland's presence in inner Detroit doesn't just mean that residents have access to a reliable supermarket. It also means that many residents have a job. Mr. Hooks' store plays an important role in capturing the local food dollars that would otherwise go to stores in the suburbs outside of Detroit. Metro Foodland currently has 60 employees, half of whom work full-time and all of whom live in the local area. And Mr. Hooks' has been such a great employer and treated his employees with such respect that over half of them have worked at the store for over 10 years. This by itself is an outstanding accomplishment given that most supermarket employees leave after a couple of years. Given that employee turnover costs most supermarkets an average of $190k a year, Mr. Hooks has increased his store's financial performance just by treating his employees well.

Mr. Hooks and his team also go out of their way to find food products that their predominantly African American customers want and can't easily find. When Metroland first opened there were almost no mainstream wholesalers that carried ethnic food products, especially for African Americans. So Mr. Hooks began to search for suppliers in the region who he could partner with to grow, produce and distribute the kinds of ethnic food products that his customers wanted. The result is that numerous suppliers opened up around the Detroit metropolitan area specializing in various ethnic food products. While Metro Foodland does source from mainstream wholesalers, they also source a lot of products from smaller ethnic suppliers, which has helped to support more jobs in the region.

There's another very important area where Metro Foodland has been taking some big steps ..... supporting customers' health. In fact, it's in the arena of health, where many people in the food industry are trying to develop new strategies, where Mr. Hooks and his team may be contributing the most significant innovation. And it's these innovations at Metro Foodland that People's Community Market is most inspired by because they're similar to some of our own ideas. Stay tuned for our next blog post about what Metro Foodland is doing to improve health in its community.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Creating Business & Change Through Community Insight - Part 2

People's Community Market is being designed on a belief that personal behavior change is best addressed through bottom-up approaches in which the people most affected by an issue provide the primary insights and ideas for its solution. One of our company's core values is to seek out and embrace the perspectives, knowledge and ideas of West Oakland residents to craft our offerings in ways that are more aligned with residents' own values and aspirations. We call this an "asset-based" approach to serving our customers as it recognizes that residents offer vital assets - such as insight, creativity and extensive social networks - for building our company and pursuing our goals. By taking an asset-based approach to serving our community, People's Community Market will establish a reciprocal relationship with our customers in which we each have something to offer to the other. This shifts the dynamic from helping a community to being in partnership with a community to help itself.

People's Community Market is being created out of the work of its nonprofit sister organization, People's Grocery. With nearly ten years of experience in West Oakland building relationships, listening to residents and experimenting with a variety of approaches, People's Grocery has gained first-hand and personal insight into what motivates West Oakland residents. More importantly, People's Grocery has built an asset-based process for obtaining input and leadership from West Oakland residents. 

A great example is People's Grocery's "Community Health and Nutrition Demonstrators", or Community HANDs. Through this program West Oakland residents are trained to deliver health and nutrition education to other residents. The participants, as representatives of the community, contribute their own ideas and craft their own approaches for engaging other people in their community. Because these approaches taken by the Community HANDs were designed by the people that the approaches are intended for, they are turning out to be pretty effective and are generating some great ideas for how to motivate residents toward healthier diets and lifestyles.

People's Community Market is building on the foundation and success of People's Grocery to create a retail food store that authentically listens to and works with customers to craft its product offering and support services. Drawing off of People's Grocery's large social network, People's Community Market is taking a number of initial steps during its planning and design phase to draw input and leadership from West Oakland residents. A number of surveys in the community have already been conducted in the planning phase, which have had tremendous impact on the overall business concept. A Community Advisory Council is being formed in which residents will play a direct role in planning People's Community Market and conducting outreach to the community prior to and after our opening. We're also planning to hold a series of focus groups in the Summer that will take place around, appropriately, a fantastic meal created by our deli manager, Rene Cage.

We also have many plans for community engagement and leadership when People's Community Market is open and operating, such as hiring at least 60% of our managers and workers from the community, maintaining an active and influential Community Advisory Council, implementing mechanisms for capturing customer feedback and other types of customer-generated information, holding ongoing events centered in dialogue with residents, and creating pathways for community ownership of the business over time.

We will write another blog post with more detail about some of our ideas and plans for engaging community input and leadership once the store is open and operating - we're particularly excited about the partnerships with community organizations that we're developing and the ways that residents will be able to have a direct stake in the business. For now the point is clear - the only way to really change eating behavior in a community like West Oakland is to engage with, listen to and work with residents. This perspective and value is already firmly baked into People's Community Market's DNA even before we have opened our doors. It will only become a more central value as we open and begin to do serve and engage our customers and our community.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Creating Business & Change Through Community Insight - Part 1

You hear it all of the time. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Consume less processed foods. Smaller portions are better. Half the plate should be vegetables. Don't snack between meals. Use whole ingredients. Try simple recipes. Cook at home twice as much as you eat out. Etc, etc, etc.....

Despite the abundance of information and advice on eating healthier that is available today, the government agencies that monitor health in the United States (such as the CDC, DHHS, and USDA) are all saying the same thing: eating behaviors are not really improving and obesity is very much on the rise. Given that little eating behavior change seems to be taking hold amongst most Americans, one has to wonder just what it is that the experts are getting wrong.

One answer may be that it's the experts themselves that are partly the problem. A majority of information in the media about improving diet and lifestyle comes from experts in the field of public health such as academics, public officials, physicians and dietitians. While these professionals are highly educated and do have a scientific understanding of the kind of dietary changes that are needed to improve health, they rarely have direct and personal insight into how to actually get people to make the changes.

To gain insight into what really works in motivating someone to do something one must be a part of that particular life experience in order to understand its perspectives, values and challenges. Experts aren't usually able to live inside of the many diverse and complex life experiences and perspectives that exist in the United States today. So they can't possibly have a complete understanding of what each person feels, experiences, and cares about. And it is often these things - the very personal aspects of an individual's world - that matter most when it comes to motivating change.

Too often public health experts and industry leaders tend to assume that average people don't have useful knowledge to offer in shaping a solution and, therefore, the experts don't build upon the knowledge that already exists among a given group of people. This is especially the case in relation to lower income citizens and people of diverse cultural backgrounds. At the core of this assumption is a belief that people are not capable of solving their own problems and, therefore, need the help of experts to solve their problems for them. A common result is that the experts end up coming up with approaches that are disconnected from the day-to-day experiences of the people they're hoping to reach and don't reflect the key elements that could inspire individuals to take action or adopt a change.

It's certainly true that People's Community Market is being created partly out of a desire to support healthy eating behaviors amongst West Oakland residents. Responding to the problem of diet-related chronic disease is a central impetus for creating our store. But instead of telling people what to do, we plan to listen to them. Instead of prescribing food choices based on what experts say, we plan to promote and hold up what residents say themselves. Instead of looking to science and industry for how to make dietary change, we plan to look to community and culture for guidance and ideas. Instead of using rules for eating healthier, we plan to use relationships centered on personal perspectives.

Next week we'll post a second blog on this topic in which we'll go into more detail on some of the ways that People's Community Market will work with its community in promoting healthier eating. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Imagining the People's Community Market Experience

Imagine having an experience at a grocery store that goes something like this...

When you reach the check out counter a clerk tells you that you can sign up for a rewards card and earn points every time you shop, take a class, attend an event, bring in a new customer, contribute an idea or progress toward a health related goal. You can use the points you earn to get a discount on a grocery bill, a ticket to an event, a monthly bus pass or a special gift like new cookware. In order to sign up for the rewards card you have to participate in a 15-minute consultation with a Nutritionist. To thank you for spending the time in the consultation you'll be given extra points right away.

During the consultation the Nutritionist measures you height, weight, blood pressure, etc. The Nutritionist asks you questions about your health, as well as that of your family. Using this information, the Nutritionist gives you some recommendations to improve or maintain your health, like reducing your sodium or sugar intake or eating more daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. The nutritionist also works with you to set up a couple of health related goals that you want to work toward over the next year. After finishing the consultation you receive your new rewards card and are credited points for your shopping and for the consultation. A couple of days later you receive a summary of the results of your consultation including the recommendations that were made and the goals that you set up.

The next time you come into the store you swipe your rewards card at the check out counter and a couple of cool things happen. First, you get some extra points for having more fruits and vegetables in your basket then you had on your previous shopping trip. Second, your receipt has a number of coupons, recipes and tips printed on the back that match perfectly with your personal goals. The receipt also features a graph that shows you the kinds of products you’ve been buying and the changes that have taken place in the way you shop.

As you are leaving you see a flier for a jazz concert for the next evening in the outdoor portion of the store called the "Front Porch". You decide to come to the concert with your partner to have dinner and enjoy the music. When you arrive for the concert, an employee swipes your rewards card and you receive points just for coming to the show.

On another day when you come into the store you decide that you want to try a new kind of product. But when you get to that section of the store you see that there are five different brands for that product and you’re not really sure which one is best for you given the recommendations that the Nutritionist made. So you ask an employee which product they think would be best for you to get. The employee runs your rewards card through a device that immediately shows your personal profile with your health recommendations and goals. The employee tells you, based on the information in your profile, which particular brand of the product would be best for you. You’re thrilled to be able to get such thorough help with your decision. You also know that you’ll earn more points for trying this new product that matches your health goals.

Now fast forward about a year. You have taken a number of cooking classes and health workshops, all for which you have received more points.  You have cashed in on your points as well, using some of your points for a discount on a big grocery bill and some to get a new cast iron pot for free. Your receipts have been giving you updates on your progress toward your goals so you have a general sense of how you’ve been progressing. Then you receive a Personal Annual Report in the mail that summarizes your entire year of shopping, taking classes, coming to events, earning points and, most importantly, progressing against your goals. The report shows what kinds of products you tended to buy one year ago, what kinds of products you tend to buy now and what the changes have been. For example, packaged snack foods used to account for 25% of your basket, but now only account for 16% of your basket. And the amount of fruits and vegetables you buy almost doubled over the same period of time! To celebrate these accomplishments the report includes tickets to an upcoming family-style dinner and concert event. The report also tells you about a goal where you could still make some progress and includes a few coupons and recipes to support you trying new products related to that goal. Finally, the report reminds you that it’s time for your annual 15-minute consultation to update your information and to set new goals for the next year. 

Imagine having this kind of an experience in your food shopping. Where your health aspirations are supported by a team of knowledgeable and helpful people at your community grocery store. Where you are not only supported for working toward your health goals, but are actually rewarded in ways that save you real money and provide you with real things and experiences. Where you have access to information that helps you make decisions and to easily understand the progress you’re making in achieving greater health and wellness. And where your social interests and your community are connected to the ways that you’re improving your health and enjoying your life. These are just a few examples of the ideas that People’s Community Market is imagining for its customers and the ways that People’s Community Market can be “More Than a Grocery”. Please keep imagining with us. Soon it will be a reality.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A New Role for Grocery Stores in Public Health

A 2002 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that, for each supermarket in low-income census tracts, residents increased their intake of fruits and vegetables by an average of 32%. Clearly, being able to purchase more fruits and vegetables in any community is a step toward reducing the conditions that lead to preventive chronic disease. At People's Community Market (PCM) we want to take the good idea of bringing grocery stores to low-income neighborhoods a step further. 

While having a grocery store in a community can result in healthier consumption, conventional models of grocery stores today aren’t necessarily maximizing the impact and role they could play on consumer health. Such food stores are often overlooked and underutilized as venues for addressing public health issues related to diet and lifestyle. We see this as a lost opportunity given that grocery stores are one of the most commonly shared destinations by most people and, as a result, could provide significant leverage for engaging the public.

An underpinning philosophy of the PCM brand is that grocery stores can be settings for engaging communities in addressing health issues related to diet and lifestyle. We're developing a design and plan for a food retail store for the inner city marketplace that reframes the role of the grocery store from being just a food retail business to being a preventive healthcare model that operates as a public health center and consumer intervention site. From this perspective the education and services offered in the store are as important to the business as the products it sells. After all PCM's goal will not just be to sell food, but to improve health in communities that are highly impacted by the prevalence and associated costs of preventive chronic disease.

PCM will offer a variety of in-store consumer education programs to support healthier food choices and lifestyle changes. In order to provide these programs cost effectively and leverage the expertise of others, PCM will partner with community and health organizations that have established proven approaches to engaging low-income urban populations in public health. Relationships with many of these potential partners have already been established through the work of PCM's sister organization, People's Grocery.  While these partnerships and services require refinement, examples of the kind of services PCM wants to provide include:

·      consultations and screenings
·      in-store demonstrations
·      tastings and giveaways
·      workshops and cooking classes
·      nutritional labeling
·      educational signage
·      point-of-purchase materials

We believe that the services provided through partnerships will not only benefit the health and well being of our customers, but will also bring financial benefits to our business. As customers become more knowledgeable about the benefits of a wider array of products they will likely buy more products and return to the store more often. And these programs won't just help boost financial returns. They will also provide PCM, as a small independent retailer, with a critical competitive advantage. The Washington Post recently ran a piece called "To keep up with the big stores, small retailers get creative" in which it interviewed retailers and analysts about how independent stores can compete with big companies that have large budgets for advertising and that can sell more cheaply. The gist of the responses were that small retailers should a) sell products that the big guys don’t sell, b) offer services that the big guys don’t offer, and c) provide a more intimate and service-driven connection to the shopper’s needs and desires. One successful independent retailer was quoted as saying that hosting workshops is a "more personal way to be in touch with our customers and keep them coming back".

The marketing research firm Kantar Retail came out with a case study in July 2010 about how an independent grocery store called Market Basket in New Hampshire was able to successfully compete against a Walmart located just one mile away. The study said that Market Basket's "use of personal appeals, handwritten signage, and a neighborhood brand established the grocer as not only more unique and authentic but also as more engaged with shoppers"
A key goal for PCM is to employ the kinds of strategies that give it a competitive advantage over bigger retailers by enriching its value proposition, carving a niche as a unique destination and customer experience and, through this, deepening loyalty. More importantly, these programs will support the aspirations of West Oakland residents to be more knowledgeable and capable in making healthy food choices and improving their own health.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Convenience is Key for Eating Healthier

Across the country there is a movement to transform our food system into one that promotes health, social equity, and sustainability. This movement is thriving in urban food desert communities where low-income residents are making connections between diet and health and, as a result, are wanting better quality food choices for their families. In response, community organizations have been working to increase access to fresh foods through a variety of food projects such as community gardens, produce stands, farmers markets, veggie boxes (CSAs) and mobile markets. Many of these ventures have received media attention and accolades from public officials, philanthropy, the public health sector and social change organizations. 

People's Community Market (PCM) has roots in this movement through its sister nonprofit, People's Grocery, which has received national attention for its food projects (including the first Mobile Market in the United States which ran from 2003 to 2007). And although PCM has arisen out of this vital movement, much of the reason that PCM is being created is to actually respond to a problem that this movement is facing: satisfying community food demand at a larger scale and in a more convenient way.

The small food projects that tend to characterize the community food movement are often unable to serve the large levels of unmet food demand that exist in under-served neighborhoods (typically ranging between 30-70%). This is largely due to the small size of these ventures. But it's also a matter of being unable to provide a convenient way to buy fresh foods. Most of these offerings only operate one or two days a week and for very limited hours. This requires that residents plan ahead, shift around their schedules and make concerted efforts to get to where the food is located. In the case of veggie boxes, one often has to order in advance, which requires a lot of forethought and actually remembering to make the order. In the case of mobile markets that move from location to location, it requires actually knowing where and when to find the market. 

In addition to being limited by time and location, these projects typically provide a very small assortment of food products, usually just fruits and vegetables. For residents who are trying to buy food across a diversity of categories that include groceries, breads, meats and prepared foods, and are shopping for an entire family for a period of a few days to a week, these projects are far from able to satisfy their shopping needs. Additionally, as many such efforts try to encourage healthier food choices (which can already entail trying out new foods and new ideas) they're often too unfamiliar in the way they operate to effectively encourage the adoption of new food choices.

The best way to increase access to fresh foods and to encourage healthier eating behavior is to make it as easy as possible for a resident to participate. While more and more people want to make healthier food choices, many are unable or unwilling to spend extra time and energy doing so, especially if it entails buying foods that are unfamiliar in variety, flavor or presentation. In a world where people are used to a high level of convenience in everything, providing exceptional convenience is a critical element in addressing food access and health in urban food deserts. These community ventures, though rooted in great values and aligned with a strong vision for a better world, have simply missed the convenience formula and, as a result, are facing big barriers in increasing their impact on local food demands.

People's Community Market is being created to provide a convenience formula that satisfies the full spectrum of food shopping needs in West Oakland. PCM will offer a broad range of products including produce, meat, seafood, cheese/dairy and prepared foods such as soups, pot roasts, gumbos, sandwiches and salads. PCM will offer organic and non-organic products across all food categories, as well as ethnic foods in most categories. And while PCM will be a smaller fresh food pavilion of 10,000 sq ft, it will be large enough to provide ample space for both the products and amenities that are key to a great and convenient customer experience. In addition, PCM will operate 6 days a week, 13 hours a day, and at a central and highly convenient location. 

An important element of PCM's social enterprise model is partnering with community and health organizations to provide consumer education that encourages healthier eating. But equally important to the way PCM will encourage healthy eating is simply being as convenient as possible in all aspects of the convenience formula that residents require. It can already be difficult in our modern food system, where unhealthy foods are so easily available, to make healthy food choices. So shouldn't making choices that are better for health be as easy as making choices that are less healthy, even in neighborhoods that have less food access? By demonstrating strategies for greater convenience in healthy food choices PCM hopes to encourage the community food movement to begin developing ventures that embrace and build on the convenience formula as a cornerstone for how the movement's values make an impact on communities and on the world.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fresh Food Demand Not a Matter of Income

One of the most common questions we get when talking about opening a grocery store in West Oakland is whether low income residents actually want to purchase fresh foods or if, in fact, they prefer purchasing the processed foods that often make up a majority of their diets. This question comes, in part, from a perception that low income residents tend to purchase mostly processed, packaged foods and very little fresh foods and produce. We answer this question with three points: 

1) There is overwhelming evidence that low-income shoppers want to and do buy fresh foods.  
A 2006 study by the Alameda County Public Health Department of "West Oakland Neighbors’ Preferences for Eating and Buying Food" found that 76% of West Oakland respondents would purchase more fresh foods if they were available nearby, were affordable, and of high quality and freshness. A study entitled "Food Desert to food Oasis" looked at the food preferences of low-income residents and found that freshness/quality ranked in the top three stated preferences (the other too were convenience and affordability). These are just a couple of the many studies that exist that show that low-income people strongly want, and often make great efforts to buy, quality fresh foods. The nonprofit People's Grocery's experience over the last eight years of working in West Oakland affirms this fact based on what residents have communicated about the foods they want to be able to purchase. 

2) When low-income people buy lots of processed foods it's usually because of a lack of options. Without citing a bunch of more studies (happy to share if you ask for them) there is ample data about the preponderance of processed foods in low-income neighborhoods and the deficiency in access to fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables and foods with more whole, unprocessed ingredients. So a big reason for why low-income people often buy lots of processed foods and little fresh foods is because of the lack of availability of those fresh food choices in their neighborhoods, not necessarily their preferences for those foods. Again, People's Grocery's experience has been that West Oakland residents would really prefer to have fresh food choices and to consume less processed foods.

3) A low rate of consumption of fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables, is prevalent among all segments of American society, not just among low-income people. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently came out with a report that ranked the United States as the "fattest nation" among advanced countries. The Centers for Disease Control reported in September 2010 that "most Americans don't eat enough fruits and vegetables", with only 26.3% of the population eating three or more servings of vegetables per day. So it's clear that the problem of not eating enough fresh foods and eating too much processed foods is a national issue, not just an issue relegated to low-income communities. Any bias toward purchasing processed foods among low-income shoppers is a reflection of a trend we're seeing in communities of all income levels.

While misperception continues to keep national chain food retailers out of low-income neighborhoods, or results in only attracting chain retailers that don't particularly focus on fresh foods, there are efforts by community groups throughout the country to develop retail models that emphasize and excel at providing fresh foods in underserved communities. PCM will focus on procuring and retailing the best kinds of fresh and affordable foods that residents have long expressed a desire for.    

Monday, August 30, 2010

Creating Art in the Grocery Aisles

At PCM we've been envisioning ways to integrate the arts into our future community food store. Some of the things we plan to do include hosting performances on an outdoor stage, exhibiting the work of local artists on the store inside walls,  having a mural painted on the store's outside walls, and playing music in the store from local artists. Our belief is that grocery stores, as cornerstones of neighborhoods, can offer important space for social, cultural and creative interactions.

So we were thrilled to learn about Super G Mart, a 75,000 square foot international supermarket and public flea market in Greensboro, NC. Super G Mart is taking the idea of a funky and hip food store to the next level. The store has put together an "Experiential Residency Program" in which artists, thinkers and practitioners develop projects right in the store itself. The Residents are given a 144 square feet of space to do whatever they want.  As a post on the store's blog says: "This space can act as a central hub for exploring the Super G, an actual site for social engagement, a temporary resource for the public, or simply a place to sit and do nothing."

So far the artist residents have done some amazing projects at Super G Mart ranging from photo installations to film screenings to live/DJ music to selling their own crafts. (You can click here to see an interview of some of the residents in the program). Super G is proving that our theory that stores can be and do a lot more. FOr more info check out the Super G Mart Experiential Residency Program blog: http://supergresidency.wordpress.com/