Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 36

> SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

The Most Beautiful
Store in America
THREE YEARS AFTER OPENING A SUPERMARKET THAT HELPED REVITALIZE
DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND THE HEINEN BROTHERS ARE MOVING FAST TO
LEVERAGE DATA AND SERVE SHOPPERS IN NEW WAYS. > By Mike Troy

C

Cleveland-based Heinen's Fine Foods' decision to open
a store in an old bank building three years ago was not
the type of move a larger company would have made.
The financials didn't add up and the space presented all
sorts of operational challenges. However, the 23-store
Heinen's chain is a family owned company with deep
roots in Cleveland and a vested interest in the viability of
Cleveland's urban core. Those factors allowed the company to move fast and push aside bottom line concerns
to open a store best described as stunning, impractical
and essential.
Brothers Tom and Jeff Heinen, third-generation
owners and co-presidents of the food retailer, gave new
meaning to the phrase "giving back to the community," in
2015 when they decided to open a supermarket in an old
bank building. The space was poorly configured for food
retailing, had bad ingress and egress for deliveries and it
had sat empty for nearly 25 years. The Heinen brothers also knew going in that a supermarket in downtown

Cleveland would take years - if ever - to turn a profit due to
downtown Cleveland's limited population density.
Despite all of the negatives, the Heinens went for it in a
total, from-the-gut move, inspired by their family's near century long connection to the community. The thinking was a
supermarket could serve as a catalyst for continued residential
growth of Cleveland's urban core and converting the bank
to the supermarket would salvage a magnificent piece of
architecture.
"There were many, many people who believed downtown
Cleveland could not continue the growth pattern of increased
residential living without a food store option," said Jeff Heinen.
Downtown Cleveland was enjoying some renewal momentum before the opening of Heinen's showpiece. There were
about 12,000 people living in downtown when the Heinens
made the decision to open the store, well below the 20,000
residents Jeff and Tom said is typically need to support a
profitable grocery operation. By the time the store opened the
downtown population had grown to 13,500 and today there
are about 16,000 residents with further growth expected.
"As lifelong Clevelanders, we understood (a grocery store)
was important to continue the momentum of people living
downtown. It was our give back to the city of Cleveland because Cleveland has been good to Heinen's," Jeff Heinen said.
"As a small, family run business we can make decisions like
that. This wasn't a great business decision. This was a great
decision for the city of Cleveland."
The store could prove to be a wiser decision than the
brothers first thought. That's because operating a store in
downtown Cleveland in an unconventional piece of real estate
is causing the Heinens to develop some new operational and
analytics muscles that will be useful as the company contemplates openings in other urban areas. As Tom Heinen pointed
out, the retailer now operates four of its 23 stores in Chicago,
a market where a small format could create new growth
Tom (left) and Jeff Heinen gave new meaning to the phrase "giving back
to the community," with their downtown Cleveland store. Now the brothers
are moving fast on the insights front with data partner dunnhumby.

36

Retail Leader.com MAY/JUNE 2018


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Retail Leader - May/June 2018

Contents
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover1
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover2
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 3
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Contents
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 5
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 6
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 7
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 8
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 9
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 10
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Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 16
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 17
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 18
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S1
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S2
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S3
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S4
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S5
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S6
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S7
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S8
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 19
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Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover3
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover4
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