When Mike Fogarty first conceptualized Choice Market a few years back, he dreamed of upending the convenience-store industry by scuttling the ubiquitous subpar foods and brands and replacing them with locally sourced grab-and-go options, premium ingredients and nicer products. Today his vision comes to life: Choice Market opened at 5 a.m. this morning, October 13, at 1770 Broadway, and it'll be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, from here on out.
Now that the pieces are in place, it's clear that Choice will also take on the more traditional grocery store in some way, rising to meet evolving shopping habits, especially in a neighborhood where big grocers can't find real estate. "This is a new kind of convenience store," says Fogarty. "We’re open 24/7, we have good product diversity and quick transaction times — but we're much more of a small-format grocery store. That's how our target market shops these days: They shop for prepared foods they can eat now, and they're going to the grocery store three to four times a week instead of once on a Sunday. We just don’t think grocery stores have kept up with that shift. [I] think this will fill the gap in a millennial generation; it suits their needs a little bit more."
To that end, three channels comprise Choice's offerings: there's a sizable made-to-order menu, a grocery selection built to fit the space and shoppers' needs, and typical convenience-store items like toiletries, paper goods and cleaning supplies. Made-to-order items include a lengthy list of breakfast dishes — egg-topped bowls, several breakfast burritos and a handful of breakfast sandwiches — smoothies, salads, sandwiches, flatbreads and bowls (we're eyeing the curry noodle and the Choice BBQ pork, which comes atop macaroni and cheese). There's also a broad selection of espresso drinks brewed from Corvus beans. As for groceries, Fogarty says that in addition to raw ingredients like produce, pasta and chicken, and packaged goods like hummus and canned soup, the shop will sell prepped items like meatballs, and plans to eventually offer meal kits.
The market also provides a number of ways to shop: Order online for pick-up, opt for delivery through Postmates, or stop by and shop, and you can use the self-checkout or pay the cashier. Fogarty says an app is forthcoming, too. "We wanted to create an experience where you can interact with Choice any way that you please," he explains.
Choice will have a few tables inside in addition to a patio, where consumers can dig into the meals they order. But the only thing that must be consumed on the premises is alcohol, which dispenses from a self-serve tap system that holds beer, wine and kombucha. Fogarty hopes that the convenience-store laws will eventually loosen enough so that Choice can sell full-strength six-packs and not just 3.2 beer.
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This first location of Choice has been three and a half years in the making, but Fogarty says the company is already looking at locations two, three and four, noting that he's exploring real estate in RiNo, LoHi and Platt Park, as well as outside of Denver, in the Midwest. "Because of the format, size and digital experience, we could plug holes throughout Denver," he says. "We're filling gaps in areas that don’t have a traditional grocery store in the vicinity." He's also interested in working with the city on serving food deserts, altering the product mix to meet the needs of any given neighborhood's demographics.
Fogarty has spent a lot of time thinking about supply chains for his concept, and he believes ultimately that that's what will differentiate Choice from competitors. "What’s unique about us is our commitment to local purveyors," he says. "That makes for a more difficult and complex supply chain, but it provides products our customers are looking for. We engage local purveyors — Rosenberg’s, Tender Belly — and that creates this micro-supply change. If we did this in Madison, Wisconsin, we’d set up the same situation there with coffee, bread and cheese sourced locally. That rewards smaller, regional purveyors and provides an outlet for them."
For its grand opening, Choice will offer a free cup of drip coffee to every customer who walks through the door on Friday, October 13, and one glass of free beer or wine to customers who drop by between 4 and 7 p.m.