Philadelphians living downtown will get their first Giant grocery store this year, as the company unveils its new concept for urban neighborhoods called Giant Heirloom Market.
Giant Food Stores LLC, of Carlisle, Pa., announced the new store Thursday during its 95th anniversary celebration at Dilworth Park with Mayor Kenney and other public officials. Giant also presented a $1 million donation to the hunger relief nonprofit Philabundance,
The new store, at 2303 Bainbridge St., is part of a trend of grocery retailers opening shops in urban mixed-use projects to reach city residents, but not all have succeeded. Giant's parent, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, had previously developed a small-format grocery store for urban markets under the name bfresh, but dropped it last year.
"[In] many cities, including parts of our own, access to fresh foods can be woefully lacking," Kenney said at the event, "so we are always grateful when new stores and resources come to town."
Giant, which has more than 170 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, is "very strong" in the Philadelphia suburbs, but it wasn't in a position to also serve the increasing numbers of downtown residents with a brick-and-mortar location, said Nicholas Bertram, Giant Food Stores president.
"We can't meet our full potential without this new format," Bertram said. "I was surprised, whenever we did research, how much customers wanted to be able to prepare their own food. That's where I saw the opportunity. People want shortcuts and hacks. They are inspired by the chefs in Philly and want to recreate those dishes and they don't always have access to the best ingredients and we're going to solve that for them."
The "Heirloom" store will be smaller than the suburban stores, with about 9,500 square feet of first-floor retail space with apartments overhead. There will be a produce chef, local artisanal breads, and plant-based foods. Giant is "best known" for the produce department, Bertram said, so the urban concept name plays off that. At the same time, an "heirloom," he said, is an object that has stayed in a family for generations.
"After 95 years of a pretty successful run, " he said, "this is that moment we are passing down some of that to something new, so it is kind of a double meaning."
Although Giant has had a store on Grant Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia since 2011, the store on Bainbridge will be its first downtown location. The company anticipates the opening to create about 60 jobs. If shoppers are looking for a product not found in the smaller, urban format, they will be able to use in-store iPads to order online for Peapod delivery or pickup.
People prefer shopping for groceries in-store over online options, according to a 2017 report from the International Council of Shopping Centers. More than two-thirds of those surveyed purchased groceries only in a store, and just 1 percent chose online only. Most people who order online pick up their groceries at a store, the report found.
Other grocery sellers opening shops in Center City urban mixed-use developments include Aldi, Mom's Organic, Sprouts, and Target in a bid to reach residents who previously had no nearby grocery stores.
Ahold Delhaize's bfresh stores were expected to open in Philadelphia in the Abbotts Square condominium building at Second and South Streets and in the former Eastern Mountain Sports space at 3401 Chestnut St. in University City, in addition to the Bainbridge Street site where Heirloom is opening, said Larry Steinberg, chief operating officer of Rittenhouse Retail and one of the brokers representing Ahold.
"Because bfresh didn't work, I think they've been very protective of what they do next. I think they want to get it right this time," Steinberg said. With the Giant name attached to the urban "heirloom" stores, Steinberg said, that points to the company realizing "they need to tie the brand to the store in order to get recognition."