—By: Display & Design Ideas – Article for Display & Design Ideas Magazine—
The environment language of Sentry Foods had to convey a comfort level to the upscale professional, the frugal senior client, local medical staff, and a university population. To leverage the store’s familiar brand, a departmental identity program included signage, packaging, and all levels of visual communications themed around taking pride in “America’s Market.” Sculpted metal fish, theatrical produce lighting, agricultural wall murals, vineyard-like lighting effects in the wine department, a warm and comfortable color palette, and oversized decor and signage help make this a unique offering.
A FRUITFUL DESTINATION
How many times have you stayed home and cooked a meal this week? How many times have you gone out to dinner or picked something up on the way home? As more and more people are turning to restaurants and convenience stores for meals, Tim Metcalf, affiliate owner of Sentry Foods, a Fleming Company, decided to remodel and expand his 46 000-sq.-ft. supermarket into a destination very different from your traditional grocer. The result is the new 54,000-sq.-ft. Sentry Foods in Hilldale, Wis.
“I think it was a study in 1997 that stated that for the first time over 50 percent of the food dollars in the nation was spent in restaurants,” says Metcalf. And another study showed that 60 percent of people don’t know what they are going to have for dinner at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. So we wanted to take the business in the perishables direction, putting more emphasis on produce, prepared foods, bakery, meat and seafood, while taking the design or focus that we do on that side of the store and maintaining it on the other side, which is grocery.
Adds Nicholas Giammarco, president of Marco Design Group: Historically, the supermarket industry as a whole has taken food everybody’s passion— everyone loves to eat or go out to eat—and shopping, which everyone loves to do, and made it a chore. As designers, we asked what went wrong with this picture. At Sentry, we took the passion for food and found a way to display it in a creative way so customers can enjoy the shopping experience.
Metcalf, Marco Design Group and a team of specialists kept these thoughts in mind as they created the expanded supermarket, which is the anchor of a regional mall. upon entering the store, customers discover the new perishables department with produce, deli and bakery to the left and America’s Market, a hot, prepared foods deli, to the right. Meats are found on the back perimeter and seafood connects perishables to the grocery. Before arriving at the checkout, a semi-private area serves as a wine cellar.
Although food merchandising was a huge approach to Sentry’s redesign, dramatic visuals and creative lighting also capture the eye. A continued focus on the merchandise throughout the store was guaranteed with an effective use of lighting. ‘That was the key to the project, the emphasis that we put on lighting and merchandising,” says Metcalf. “It was not to give a blanket approach to lighting but more like a highlighting approach, like something you would find in a higher end retail store such as Nordstrom’s.”
A blend of direct lighting and ambient lighting keeps the merchandise in the spotlight while also maintaining a natural lightness in open spaces. “A lot of supermarkets are lit with fluorescent strips and indirect lighting. We didn’t want the monotony of the fluorescent lighting on the produce,” says Marty Peck, lighting designer with Creative Lighting Design & Engineering. “We wanted it to be punched up and be exciting. I have a strong background in theater lighting, and we talked about using a sense of drama with the lighting because we wanted to make it look very appealing.”
The seafood department is the most breathtaking in its lighting and visual program, providing an under- water exploration for consumers. The scene features flame-polished metal fish sculptures ranging in size from 4 ft. to 6 ft. “swimming” in a ceiling of blue translucent panels with rotating lights that create the illusion of reflecting water.
“The seafood is a transition between the perishables area and the grocery area. The perishables area has an exposed concrete ceiling and the grocery area has a standard acoustical ceiling. We felt something very important, very powerful and very strong needed to be there,” says Giammarco. Peck adds, “We had a lot of fun with that. We used a combination of neon in the ceiling sculpture and theatrical projectors that have an HID lamp, so they can run for 10,000 hours without having to replace the lamps. These projectors have special effects attachments so you get this wave-like projection coming out. There are approximately three of those shining down through translucent panels onto the floor.”
However, explains that using the blue lighting in the area was tricky. “You never, ever put blue light on food because you run the risk of making the food look off color. The solution was to make sure that the blue light and the white light were selectively applied and we had the white light pumped up sufficiently on to the merchandise so that the food is not off color.”
Other visuals are as dramatic as America’s Market’s oversized, backlit, translucent panels cantilevered off the wall or as simple as murals on perimeter walls. The murals nostalgically depict Wisconsin’s farming heritage. Flooring patterns throughout the supermarket add an exciting element while moving traffic through various departments.
“Our flooring patterns are very strong, very dynamic. It’s not just a design issue, but a cost neutral way to add another layer to the excitement and theatrics of the environment,” says Giammarco. “Vinyl is vinyl is vinyl and it’s the material of choice in the supermarket industry. But a white tile doesn’t cost any more than a beige tile or a red tile or a blue tile, unless we get crazy with the pat- terns where the costs of installations may be higher.”
Upgraded flooring materials have been added to highlight certain departments. In America’s Market and the deli/bakery areas, designers chose a granite composite tile, but used the same thickness as the vinyl tile so that installation was uniform and there wasn’t a transition in thickness. In the wine area, a wood floor was used.
The wine cellar appears to be right out of a European vineyard with playful, twinkling lights dangling from an exposed wood grid ceiling. Wood fixtures continue the rooms warmth while customers are greeted by a wine steward for personalized service.
Wood fixtures have also been incorporated throughout the store, something atypical of a supermarket. A mix of standard display and refrigeration cases was combined with kitchen cabinetry to give a sense of home. The display and case fronts were kept open to better highlight the merchandise. Designers worked with millwork and fixture manufacturers to create the fronts of cases to be merchandisable. In some cases, custom fixtures were used while others were standard cases or fillers between standard fixtures.
“We added fixturing and display opportunities where they were not planned before,” says Giammarco. “We designed fixturing and cabinetry shelving above the traditional refrigeration cases and came in with visual merchandising and added additional product there. The object was not to make the store feel as if it were decorated, and if it was, it was done with food.
The redesign of Sentry Hilldale was sure to be a success, but Metcalf and his team were surprised at how big of a success the store has become. Says Metcalf “Typically, when you do a remodel, you are looking for an average increase of 15 to 20 percent—you get happy feet if you hit 20 percent. We have greatly exceeded that number. This remodel was a home run.”