WhiteWave Foods veteran Mike Fogarty has long canvassed the country for work and play, and about five years ago, over the course of those travels, he realized that the convenience store was long overdue for an update. “As you stop at various convenience stores, you get the sense that the products and food are subpar in terms of quality,” he explains. “They’re overly processed, and stores carry national brands; they’re not supporting local purveyors. This is a big category within the food-supply chain, and it hasn’t seen innovation in many years.”
A couple of years later, he put pen to paper to envision what that innovation would look like and came up with Choice, a market that will open at 1770 Broadway at the end of the summer.
Fogarty’s vision hinges on a prepared-food and grab-and-go program that offers consumers easy access to freshly made and responsibly sourced food. “We’re preparing as much as possible in-house, using fresh, local, sustainably raised food,” he says. “All of our proteins are antibiotic-free, nitrate-free and sourced locally from purveyors like Tender Belly and Redbird.” The founder tapped Kevin Ward, whose credentials include Chicago’s Purple Pig and Longmont’s Longs Peak Pub, to create the menu, and he pulled together a board of sandwiches, salads, flatbreads, bowls and smoothies, plus breakfast burritos, bowls and toasts for breakfast. Those items will be customizable and made to order, and they’ll be supplemented by hot and cold grab-and-go options — sandwiches and salads, carrots and hummus, Continental sausages, soups and oatmeal. “We have a significant vegetarian program, with five or six different vegan sandwiches, and options in bowls and flatbreads,” adds Fogarty.
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In addition to prepared food, Choice will house a market section stocked with items necessary to cook at home; Fogarty says many of those items will be the same items the kitchen uses, like Tender Belly bacon. And the store will also sell packaged food and items typical of the convenience-store category: chips, candy, ice cream, beverages, toiletries and basic medicines. And while the founder says the shop will give preference to local craft purveyors, it will also stock big brands like Coca-Cola and Skittles, though they’ll be a smaller-than-normal part of the total mix.
Another hallmark of the convenience-store category: Choice will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and it will deliver all night via UberEats. “Most convenience stores are open 24/7, so that’s an expectation of the customer,” Fogarty explains. “But for me, it’s also about reliability. We really want to create that level of trust. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas at 2 a.m.; if you need a gallon of milk and eggs, we’re open.”
This first location of Choice should come online by the end of the summer, and Fogarty says the company will work on ironing out the kinks of the concept once the doors are open. Then it plans to expand quickly across the west, looking at other neighborhoods like that of its flagship, which is “densely populated for businesses, with a significant nine-to-five lunch crowd Monday through Friday…and a lot of residential development under way in the immediate vicinity.” This first Choice will be on the ground floor of an apartment complex, and Fogarty is looking at similar setups for successive outlets. But he hasn’t ruled out standalone stores, either: “We’re working on how can we look at the fuel station differently, how can we meet needs there. That may very well be our next venture.”
Follow the market's progress on the Choice website.