Breadwinner does a lot with a little
Wendy, Geoff and Katie Malkonian swore they'd never go the bricks and mortar retail route with Breadwinner, their on-line-only Atlanta-based specialty bread business. But when their growing corporate gift orders forced them into a production space with square footage to spare, they could no longer justify shunning retail.
The Malkonians didn't expect an immediate hit. Breadwinner's off-the-beaten-path location, behind a corporate building in an industrial park, isn't ideal for foot traffic. But they quickly realized they already had a customer base in the Atlanta area. As soon as word got out about the retail store, it became a destination. Also, being in a corporate park was a blessing in disguise. They were pulling in office workers for breakfast and lunch and simultaneously introducing them to corporate gift packages containing their breads.
“We designated a tiny area, 400 sq. ft. of our 3,000-sq.-ft. space, for retail. We figured if it didn't work, we'd just go ahead and concentrate on what we've been doing, which was doing pretty well,” says co-owner Geoff Malkonian. “But nine months later, we looked around and realized that retail has become 50 percent of our sales.”
Figuring they had nothing to lose, the family invested about $6,000 in materials, labor and consulting for the store design. Katie and Wendy had an old college friend in the design business: Cinda Boomershine — Cinda B from Turner Broadcasting Network's Movie and a Makeover. They hired her to make the most of their small space.
“She helped us out tremendously. We're pretty creative people, but it was nice to have an outside set of eyes,” Geoff says. “She said that we should do a ‘shabby chic’ setup. This involved taking advantage of the high ceilings, exposed pipes and cement floors of our industrial setting.”
Chandeliers and a chalkboard featuring the bakery's warm breads currently hang above a painted concrete floor from an industrial chain connected to metal rafters. All of the walls are painted, but the pipes remains exposed.
Upon entering the store, the eye immediately goes to a gigantic countertop area. A nearby retail store on its way out of business produced this gem of a counter space for a steal. It is custom made with the requisite wiring for lighting or a point of sale system. The Malkonians didn't keep the “awful” blue and gold Formica top, opting instead to redesign with a stained and sealed birch counter with a distressed mirror front. Geoff says it reminds him of the bar in the television show Cheers, with an “old-time bar” look and feel.
To the right of the counter, an antique, nine-chamber case displays the bakery's mail-order gift baskets. Customers can mix and match which types of bread to include in the baskets by selecting individual loaves from an antique bread rack, complete with original metal caster wheels and aged wood that seems to tell stories of past uses. The gift baskets include one to four loaves of bread, and some are accompanied by packages of the bakery's self-branded, locally roasted coffee. The packages carry tongue-in-cheek titles. “The Date's Not Over,” for example, consists of a loaf of bread and pound of coffee, while “Meet the Parents” adds an extra loaf.
In the middle of the room, a table made from an attic door and other remnants of a historic local building by an Atlanta artist is used for a seasonal bread display. For the lunch crowd, café tables sit near open air merchandisers holding sandwiches and cold drinks.
The entire wall on the left side of the retail space is covered by a piece of family history.
“My great-granddad on my father's side had a store in Brooklyn, N.Y. that he opened in the 1920s and ran for 30 years: Melkonian's Fine Foods,” Geoff says. “When he passed away and we were cleaning out his house, I found an old photo of it.”
Geoff blew up the 3-in. by 5-in. black and white image to 8 ft. by 12 ft. of wallpaper, now covering the wall. “It's one of those pictures that tells a thousand stories,” Geoff says.
For what started as an afterthought, Breadwinner's retail space succeeds in merchandising. Though a limited number of bread varieties are on display at one time, they are merchandised to give the impression of choice and plenty. The loaves of bread are packaged separately, but also as part of a sandwich or as a corprate gift. The retail, foodservice and gift package businesses all seem to drive one another.
Less is more at Food Lion's Bloom
With a simple, sleek and straightforward merchandising design, Food Lion's Bloom allows the product to take center stage.
Bloom's in-store bakery is grouped with the deli and home meal solutions departments. One department flows seamlessly into the other. Bakery displays dot the deli in logical locations, and vice versa, acting as complements to one another. Sandwich breads are cross-merchandised near the deli lunchmeats, and desserts are displayed in the home meal solutions area.
“I really wanted to see a line of bakery products as you walk through the store,” says Mike Lamontagne, manager of merchandising and training — deli, bakery and home meal solutions. “We didn't have a whole lot of space dedicated to the bakery portion, but I still wanted to get that large bakery presence throughout deli and bakery.”
Instead of traditional wood, the bakery department employs Plexiglas in custom-designed displays. This provides a modern, technology-friendly look, which is part of the Bloom brand image. The transparent shelving doesn't overpower the products, but instead allows the products to stand out.
The displays also incorporate the color blue, which is carried out throughout the Bloom stores and its logo. Display placement allows for aisles that are wide enough for an easy flow of cart-pushing customers through the department.
The bakery department has a presence in other areas of the store, as well. A stand-up refrigerated case near the store entrance focuses on a different theme, such as strawberries, each week. Inside the case, relevant departments present several different ways to use strawberries in a meal.
Bloom also employs “taste ambassadors” to perform live demonstration sampling. “It really pushes an item,” says April Tucker, a taste ambassador, at a Bloom store in Greenville, S.C. “You'd be surprised how well sampling sells a product.” Taste ambassadors coordinate with department managers to determine special products to sample and complement with products from other areas of the store.
“We just want to merchandise in a logical, easy, hassle-free way,” Lamontagne says.
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