Greenbush Brewing Co. opened a brew pub inside a Martin's Supermarket in South Bend in 2019. (IIB Photo/Wes Mills)
Martin's Supermarkets in northern Indiana created their own artisan pizza and installed a brick oven in 4 stores.
Martin's supermarkets created its own in-store smokehouse as part of a major remodeling.
A supermarket chain in northern Indiana is rethinking how grocers should operate. Martin’s Supermarkets has joined a nationally-growing trend to go beyond essentials, by offering a “store within a store” concept.
No longer are customers satisfied with prepared salads or even freshly cooked chicken, they now want artisan pizza, smokehouse meats, and craft beer on-tap. Which is why Martin’s added a brewpub to one of its recently remodeled grocery stores in South Bend.
“Customers’ preferences and lifestyles change quickly, and we need to stay ahead of this curve,” explained Ami Simeri McClellan, senior vice president at Martin’s and a division vice president for SpartanNash.
In November 2018, Michigan-based grocery distributor and retailer SpartanNash (Nasdaq: SPTN) announced a deal to purchase Martin’s, a longtime local grocery chain that was started in South Bend in 1947. Over the years, it grew to 21 stores throughout northern Indiana and southwest Michigan.
It’s now part of a publicly-traded company with 155 corporate-owned retail stores and 11 wholesale distribution centers.
Before the acquisition, which was finalized in January 2019, Martin’s was re-investing in its stores. Under the new ownership, the company continues to renovate existing stores, to match the décor and services of newly-constructed stores.
“Both Martin’s and SpartanNash have had a long history of investing in their retail stores to deliver a customer-first approach to grocery shopping. This is more important than ever with the rapidly changing options and technology available for customers,” said McClellan.
According to the National Retail Federation, 35% of consumers shop in “micromoments” at least weekly and up to multiple times daily. Rather than being a planned activity, nowadays consumers shop “whenever and wherever the mood strikes them, and usually while doing something else,” stated the NRF.
“In national surveys, data suggests more than 40% of customers at 4 p.m. don’t know what they are planning to eat for dinner that night,” shared McClellan. “Time-starved families need quality, healthy options and an easy store to navigate, and this is what drives our remodel options. “
At one of its recently remodeled stores in South Bend, SpartanNash added a smokehouse BBQ counter where customers can purchase table-ready beef brisket, pulled pork, and ribs, slow-roasted over cherry wood.
The grocery chain also created its own specialty-order pizza program, called Crushed Tomato Artisan pizza, installing brick-ovens in four of its Indiana stores.
The prepared food can be taken home, eaten at the store, or in a novel twist, at a brand-new brewpub built inside the grocery store.
“We have taken the ‘tasting’ concept to a new level,” said McClellan.
To set itself apart from other grocers or superstores, Martin’s partnered with Greenbush Brewing Co., a local microbrewery based in southwest Michigan.
“Martin’s approached us,” said Scott Sullivan, owner and founder of Greenbush Brewing Co. “We have such a good following in South Bend that it just seemed like it made a lot of sense…to be attached to something grocery related.”
As the store was undergoing a massive renovation, a decision was made to include a standalone brewpub inside the store. It’s been open for about three months.
“I only have a sample of 90 days to work with, but we’ve still exceeded all of our expectations out of the gate. So, I’m very happy,” said Sullivan.
The brew pub offers 14 taps with experimental craft beers and regular brews. Pending final approval, Sullivan said the company will be installing a small pilot brewing system in early March. He says it highlights another unique feature of the Martin’s-Greenbush business relationship not only regionally, but nationally.
“But unless somebody’s got me beat, I think we got bragging rights in the brewery side,” said Sullivan.
The Greenbush brewpub is enclosed in glass walls, separating it from regular grocery shoppers with children in tow. Customers must be 21 years old to enter.
“Store guests can bring store purchases into the brewpub to enjoy along with their favorite beverage,” added McClellan.
The produce department also features a new service called The Fresh Divide. Customers can select fresh fruit and vegetables that store staff will cut on the spot to their specifications.
“Whether is it delivering an exceptional e-commerce experience, developing healthy ready to eat or minimal prep offerings, redesigning the store space to accommodate multifunctional cafes or stores within a store, we listen to our guests and continually evolve to be relevant to our customers. “
McClellan says grocery shopping should be fun, easy and fit diverse customers’ lifestyles. Whether it’s busy families on the go or empty nesters, the grocery store says it must remain focused on experiential offerings to build customer loyalty.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business reporter Wes Mills, Greenbush Brewing Co. owner Scott Sullivan explains the uniqueness of a brewpub in a grocery store.