New Metro market adds more services

RETAIL & ADVERTISING

March 24, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writer

It used to be enough for a grocery store to just sell groceries. But not anymore, at least when it comes to Metro Food Markets.

Since the new Metro stores started popping up 18 months ago, the chain, owned by Super Rite Foods Inc. of Harrisburg, Pa., has added services ranging from a full-service bank branch to fast-food outlets offering pizza, Chinese food, ribs and chicken.

Now Metro's sixth store, which will have its grand opening Saturday in Pasadena, will expand the offerings a bit further with a one-hour photo processing service and an espresso bar.

"Our strategy has been to be a hybrid store," said John Ryder, president and chief operating officer of Metro. "It's a convenience factor."

The new in-store photo processing system, called ExpressStop, includes a sensor device in the drop-off box that alerts employees when film is left by a customer, so that processing can begin immediately.

Ideally, a shopper can drop film off, sip a cup of espresso or cappuccino while perusing the price of pork chops, finish shopping and then pick up the photographs as he or she leaves the store. The espresso and the film development will be available only at the new 63,500-square-foot store for the time being, Mr. Ryder said.

All these unusual offerings are doing better than expected and help to draw in more customers, Mr. Ryder said, but he can't quantify the effect. "It's the sum of the details that make it go," he said.

There is no question that Metro is way ahead of other area stores in offering additional services, said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food World, a trade tabloid based in Columbia. Whether they will work is another question. "It's way too premature to judge how all these concepts are going to work," he said.

On the plus side, "you are giving the customers things they haven't seen before," Mr. Metzger said. But if the extra services -- which are labor intensive -- don't work out, they take away from the core business -- "which is selling groceries," Mr. Metzger said.

But for now, Metro is pleased with the results and plans to add two more services when it opens its next grocery store in Dover, Del., in December, Mr. Ryder said. But those extras are still secret, he said.

Super Rite also owns the 22-store Basics Food chain in Maryland.

Home Depot builds

In other retail action, two super stores and an Italian restaurant chain are expanding their holdings in the Baltimore region -- helped by KLNB Inc., the large Towson-based commercial real estate company that represented various parties in each transaction.

Home Depot, which has four stores in the area, is building its first store inside the Baltimore City limits in Highlandtown, at the cor ner of Eastern Avenue and Kane Street. The 115,000-square-foot store is expected to open this fall, KLNB said in a news release.

The Sports Authority, a sports equipment store, is scheduled to open a store in May in the former Epstein's department store in the Pike Park Plaza in Catonsville. It will be the chain's fourth location in Baltimore County, KLNB said.

And for those who would rather eat than shop, Bertucci's Restaurant Corp. plans to open a 6,200-square-foot Italian restaurant this summer at 1818 York Road in Timonium, its fourth in the area.

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