Lawrence Hy-Vee cuts back on store hours, but confirms plans for new Starbucks, food offerings moving ahead
I’m not sure the last time I found myself at a grocery store at 3 a.m., but I buy my Doritos by the case to avoid such emergency trips. You may want to start taking your own precautions as Hy-Vee has announced it is no longer keeping its stores open 24 hours a day.
But, soon, Lawrence’s lone Hy-Vee will have a Starbucks kiosk, if that helps you stay awake for actual daytime shopping. In fact, there are several changes on tap for the Hy-Vee at 3504 Clinton Parkway, including updates on a pair of new food offerings I’ve reported on. Here’s an update, express-lane style:
• Earlier this month, Hy-Vee stopped being open 24 hours a day. The new hours are from 5 a.m. to midnight. The decision was a corporate-wide one for Iowa-based Hy-Vee. In a written statement, Hy-Vee said it made the decision to eliminate overnight hours to better align itself with shopping trends. The company thinks it will improve its stocking operations, as the grocer plans to do most of its stocking overnight, helping keep aisles clear of clutter during the day.
The reduced hours, though, likely will have some impact on employee totals in Lawrence. In the written statement, the company acknowledged there could be some staff reductions or changing job duties for employees. In a follow-up, corporate spokeswoman Tina Potthoff said she didn’t have additional details to share about potential staff changes at the Lawrence store.
• A new in-store pizza counter and kitchen is about two weeks away from opening inside Hy-Vee. As I reported in September, Hy-Vee is bringing its Mia Pizza concept to the Lawrence store. New store director John Weaver said construction work is underway to create the new pizza area in the food court area near the western section of the store.
The Mia Pizza concept is kind of a build-your-own pizza operation. Well, a Hy-Vee employee puts the toppings on, but you direct them about what you would like, kind of how you order a sandwich at a Subway. The key to the operation is a thin-crust pizza and an oven that takes only about six minutes to cook a pizza.
Based on the research I did in September, expect a big sauce and toppings bar. Sauces include traditional red sauces, plus a barbecue, a pesto, Alfredo and others. Expect lots of cheeses and vegetable toppings, as the restaurant basically has an entire grocery store’s produce section at its disposal. Some of the meat toppings I saw while searching for information included Genoa salami, chorizo, bacon, traditional New York-style meatballs, chicken Florentine meatballs, plus the standard sausage, pepperoni and other such offerings.
• When I reported on the pizza kitchen in September, I also mentioned there was a possibility the store would be adding a hibachi grill service to its in-store food offerings. That, however, wasn’t certain at the time. It is now, though. Weaver said construction work began this week on the hibachi grill project. It also will be in the food court area of the store.
Weaver was still getting up to speed on some of the details around that operation, but in general, it will allow customers to pick a selection of meats, vegetables and sauces that a Hy-Vee employee will cook right before your eyes on a large flat-top grill. No word on whether the employees will be juggling spatulas and flipping shrimp into your mouth. (Probably not, as there can be liability there, especially if the shrimp is a lobster and it happens to still be alive. Or, so I’ve been told.)
• Starbucks is continuing its quest to become the caffeine king in Lawrence. If you remember, Starbucks won a key contract to start placing stores and coffee counters on the University of Kansas campus beginning in July. It also opened a new store at 23rd Street, and the speculation is part of the remodel underway at Lawrence’s Target store involves room for a much larger Starbucks.
Weaver confirmed the Hy-Vee store also is getting in on the act. Currently the store is served by the Caribou Coffee chain. But that chain will leave the store in the coming weeks and be replaced by a Starbucks kiosk, Weaver said. An exact date for the Starbucks opening hasn’t been set. Construction work is underway to locate the Starbucks near the customer service area of the store. The area currently occupied by Caribou Coffee will be used to market some “fresh meal options,” said Weaver, who took over as store director at Hy-Vee on Monday after previously having served as a store director in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In other news, some of you may be wondering if there is an update on Hy-Vee’s former location on West Sixth Street. As a reminder, the grocer closed that store in November.
At the time, some people were optimistic that another grocery store would locate in the spot. There certainly hasn’t been any sign of that type of activity for the location. Based on the paperwork on file at the courthouse, it appears Hy-Vee has an ownership interest in the store building. I’ve had people in commercial real estate tell me that likely means Hy-Vee has a contract provision that won’t allow the store to be leased or sold to another grocery company. I don’t have confirmation on that, but it is something to keep in mind as we wait for news on a tenant to develop.
Thus far, it doesn’t appear there is a huge marketing effort to get the space filled. For instance, I haven’t seen the space featured much on the major commercial real estate websites that are used to market such properties.