BRUNSWICK, Ohio — The convenience channel continues to challenge the long-held view of "gas station food" and Giant Eagle's GetGo Café + Market is just one example of how things are a changing.
On Sept. 14, the retailer held a grand opening for its recent location in Brunswick. In addition to corporate executives and local officials, the Travel Channel television-food personality Adam Richman popped in to mingle with the event's attendees, according to Cleveland.com.
The 6,000-square-foot convenience store features fresh fruit slices, a surcharge-free ATM, a seating area and self-service kiosks to place made-to-order meals. The store, according to the report, represents a trend in stores adjacent to gas stations, largely driven my millennial consumers.
The first Café + Market opened in Alliance in November, a rep for the company said, and though a handful exist, more are coming. There are more than 60 GetGos in Ohio, and the company is transitioning them to be Café + Markets.
"We like to say we're taking the 'con' from 'convenience,'" said Polly Flinn, Giant Eagle senior vice president and general manager. "You don't have to sacrifice time for quality. This is about saving people time. In the past you would have to compromise — that microwave sandwich."
The Brunswick GetGo Café + Market places the gas station in the back of the store. Even the exterior décor is different: There are no curbs, which aims to create a "seamless" entrance, Flinn said. Large, decorative circular stones are placed along the store's perimeter, more aesthetically pleasing than the utilitarian yellow bollards usually seen at convenience- and big-box stores.
Outside, it has 65-plus parking spots. There's a seating area. Plants are sold and the retailer plans to add curbside pickup. Inside, fruit is brought in daily. Rows of gift cards cover a range of stores and services, the report added.
As Flinn explained to the news outlet, over the past decade the customer base has transitioned from majority male to 50-50 and the 18-34 demographic comprises 20 to 25 percent of convenience store shoppers.
Millennials, she added, don't have the stereotype of gas stations just being "a fix-your-tire" type of place. And they are open to healthy, quality options.
"Market is a word that is increasingly being used in our industry as stores evolve from mini marts with largely packaged items to a place where you can get much more fresh and prepared foods," said Jeff Lenard, vice president, strategic industry initiatives for NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
According to Cleveland.com, Giant Eagle's GetGo brand opened in 2003, and Market District followed in 2006. The thinking is GetGo can leverage the Market District name and resources, Giant Eagle officials said.
"It's how the industry has evolved," Flinn said. "In the past the shopping experience was singular — the butcher, the baker. A gas station was for oil change and gas. But people's lives are changing."
Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle has nearly 400 retail locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.