PHOTO GALLERY: Inside Kum & Go’s First-Ever Urban Store
DES MOINES — Located in the heart of downtown Des Moines and just down the street from Kum & Go LC’s headquarters, the retailer’s first-ever urban store is a no-fuel, no-parking, walk-up retail location that focuses on health and sustainability in a new shopping environment.
“Kum & Go is a brand built on convenience,” said President Tanner Krause. “How do we make it easier and easier for customers to interact with us? With more and more customers living and working downtown, putting a store in the heart of Des Moines allows Kum & Go to be even more convenient for our community.”
The company is no stranger to innovation when it comes to introducing new convenience store concepts. It’s been less than five years since the retailer debuted its Marketplace prototype, which combines a contemporary design style with function to provide customers with an experience unlike any other. Now, Kum & Go is taking another step in its journey to meet customers where they are with its urban store concept, which clocks in at 3,000 square feet — about half the size of the Marketplace concept.
The landmark store is situated in the newly renovated Edna Griffin Building, a landmark site in Iowa’s civil rights history. According to a Kum & Go thread on Twitter, the 135-year-old building was once the home of Katz Drug Store. On July 9, 1948, Edna Griffin, her one-year-old daughter and two friends went into Katz to get something to drink. Griffin ordered an ice cream soda and was refused service because she was black. She organized a boycott, led sit-ins, and filed both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit against Katz. The litigation made it all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled it illegal to deny service based on race in the state.
As a tribute to Griffin, the store features a powerful art installation by Jordan Weber, a Des Moines-based artist and activist whose work focuses on inner-city communities nationwide.
“We’re especially happy to have this store in the Edna Griffin Building, the site of a pivotal moment in our country’s civil rights struggle,” Krause said. “In 1948, the store in this space became notorious as a symbol of exclusion and prejudice. I’m honored that Kum & Go is in this same space, 70 years later, our doors proudly open to everyone.”
A Testing Ground for Change
With a focus on health, the downtown c-store offers a litany of better-for-you options across product categories, including freshly prepared foods, beverages and snacks. Unlike Kum & Go’s Marketplace concept, this store does not offer roller-grill hot dogs, a nacho cheese bar, or craft beer growlers. It does offer pizza, sandwiches, salads, and select high-end wine, liquor and packaged craft beer.
“Kum & Go is excited about making healthy convenient; we think this concept and this audience will be a great testing ground for that change,” explained Ariel Rubin, communications director for Kum & Go.
The store makes sustainability a focal point, too. Purchases are put in reusable cloth bags, as opposed to plastic grocery bags. And, as part of a nationwide move across all of its stores, the retailer provides compostable silverware and straws, recyclable cups and lids, and post-consumer recycled food packaging.
These changes will reduce the amount of flood plastic used in the retailer’s food operations by more than 90 percent, according to the company.
Since opening the pilot store, Kum & Go has announced plans to expand its urban store concept with locations in other cities, including downtown Denver. By the end of this year, the retailer intends to have five urban stores open. All will be in high foot-traffic areas and will be without parking or fuel.