Why grocery stores are trying to become community hubs

H Mart, the nation’s largest Asian grocery chain, will soon open its first location in West Jordan’s Utah. It’s still under construction, but he’s hiring staff for an opening later this year. It will join South Salt Lake’s Chinatown Supermarket, which bills itself as Utah’s largest Asian market.

It’s not just the place for fresh produce and specialty Asian ingredients like lotus root or shrimp-flavored potato chips. There are also lively restaurants serving everything from fondue to sushi.

“I like that it’s a centralized place for Asian food,” said John Nguyen, who moved to Utah from Virginia about a year and a half ago to work and be closer to the outdoors. He finds himself at the market “two to three times a week at least”.

He said places like Chinatown Supermarket help him feel more connected to the community.

“As a Vietnamese American, I love coming here to eat at places like One More Noodle House and the Pho Place, and going to the grocery store here to buy things you won’t find at Smith’s or Trader Joe’s.”

You might not think about it, but chances are the grocery store is one of the places you spend the most time and money outside of your home and work.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumers spent an average of 11.3% of their disposable personal income on food in 2022. For a family of four, this can be between $900 and $1,500 per month .

Today’s grocery stores also try to be something else: a meeting place. Stores can provide a space to connect and rediscover nostalgic tastes and smells.

“Having a place like this is fun,” Nguyen said. “It’s just a nice, relaxing place for people to gather. It’s familiar. I think that’s the biggest part of the problem.

While online ordering and food delivery took off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, industry experts say people are now returning to brick-and-mortar supermarkets.

“The community definitely plays a big role and we obviously try to do things inside the store. They give people a purpose,” said Steve Miner, vice president of store development at Associated Food Stores.

Associated Food Stores operates some of Utah’s smaller grocery chains, such as Macey’s, Dan’s and Fresh Market.

“We call it ‘the rides.’ You know, we’re bringing things back into the store that we think will bring a gathering place for people in the community.“, » said the miner.

This gathering place can take the form of expanded seating areas, cafes, or even restaurants like those found in Chinatown.

When I think about going to the grocery store, I know what nights of the week or weekend, what times of the weekend, I’m likely to see some of my friends and neighbors,” added Tina Murray, director of Smith’s corporate affairs. . The chain is one of Utah’s largest employers and operates under the Kroger grocery umbrella nationwide.

For her, the grocery store plays an important role in the social fabric of each community it serves.

“People come together around food, whether at home or in a restaurant. People also gather to eat at grocery stores.

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