MISSION By next summer, Hy-Vee Food Stores Inc. plans to be building a 65,000-square-foot supermarket on a site the company is buying at the northwest corner of Clinton Parkway and Kasold Avenue.
Ron Pearson, president of the Chariton, Iowa-based grocery chain, said Monday that Hy-Vee was attracted to Lawrence because of its growing economy and the relative youth of its population.
"It's a town that we need to be in," Pearson said during a press conference at the company's new 74,000-square-foot Mission store, which opened for business today.
"We think it has a very viable economic base," Pearson said of Lawrence. "We see an opportunity to invest our capital for the long term."
As things stand now, the Hy-Vee store will be the westernmost supermarket in Lawrence. It will be larger than either of the Dillon's super stores, at Sixth and Lawrence Avenue or 23rd and Naismith.
PEARSON SAID construction of the Hy-Vee store, which would take about 10 months to complete, will be accompanied by other commercial development on that corner. Officials of R.H. Johnson Co., the Kansas City, Mo., developer orchestrating the project, could not be reached for comment today.
Jack Rose, a former Lawrence mayor and one of the current owners of the 14-acre site, said a site plan for the corner is being prepared for submission to the Lawrence City Commission.
"The overall plan is to have a small neighborhood-type strip center adjacent to the store," he said.
Hy-Vee operates 179 grocery and drug stores under the Hy-Vee and Drug Town names in seven upper Midwestern states, as well as 38 convenience stores under several names. The privately held, employee-owned company had sales of $2.24 billion for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
Hy-Vee has undertaken a program to replace or refurbish a number of existing stores as well as pushing into new markets, Kansas being one of them. The company arrived in the Kansas City area with the opening of an Overland Park store in 1989 and, with the opening of the Mission store, now has seven locations in the metropolitan area.
Pearson said the company's eighth Kansas City-area store is now being built in Gladstone and that ground will be broken next year for stores in Liberty, Mo., and Olathe, as well as in Lawrence.
ALTHOUGH THE Lawrence store will be about 10,000 square feet smaller than the new Mission store, Pearson said it will have most of the features of that prototype store.
For example, Pearson said the company sees opportunity in providing a variety of services and fresh foods to busy, two-income households. New Hy-Vee stores will emphasize produce, meats and prepared foods and offer outlets for laundry and dry cleaning, optical services and banking, as well as pharmacy and veterinary consulting services.
Pearson said the veterinary angle is unique to Hy-Vee and is designed to tap a underserved market.
"We have more people coming into our stores who have more pets than children," he said, adding that 25 percent of pet food sales are escaping grocery stores.
Pearson explained that customers could consult with a veterinarian on duty about dietary and other matters but emphasized that pets would not be allowed in the store.
HY-VEE STORES also target the service market by offering drive-up grocery-loading services. Customers receive a number at the check stand and have their groceries loaded into their car at a drive-up window on the side of the store.
By offering more variety in its inventory as well as a range of services, and by allowing consumers to use credit cards, Pearson said Hy-Vee's average "ring" at the check stand is $19.60. He said that figure is high by industry standards, even though it includes small sales from a store's deli and cafeteria.
However, the main thrust of Hy-Vee's current marketing strategy is in fresh foods, Pearson said.
"It's almost a shopping center of fresh food," he said.
In addition to fresh seafood and prepared foods, such as pasta dishes and Chinese food, he said the company is experimenting with fresh microwave dinners, which consist of an entree and a side dish.
"It is the forerunner to replace the TV dinner you've had all your life, but it's in fresh form," he said.