Mega super stores took hold of America in the 1980s and ’90s, but more recently, retailers are moving toward smaller footprint stores, especially in urban areas. Shoppers are more likely to have their groceries delivered, and they’re less likely to stockpile food. About 10% of American shoppers only buy groceries they’re likely to use that day, according to a 2018 Nielson report. That diminishes the demand for supermarkets, and Dallas is catching onto the trend. A 2,500-square-foot Tom Thumb Express store opened on Haskell Avenue in 2018, for example. In our neighborhood, the 3,000-square-foot Cox Farms Market flourishes on Fort Worth Avenue at Sylvan. And our neighborhood’s Aldi stores are packed at 6 p.m. any given weeknight.
Three more small grocery stores are coming online in Oak Cliff in 2020. Here are their stories.
The owners of Royal Blue Grocery didn’t get everything they wanted from the City of Dallas. City Council voted in January to approve a $350,000 low-interest loan for the grocer to expand its operation at 634 W. Davis, the former Bolsa Mercado. But they threw out the company’s request for an additional $350,000 economic development grant. Royal Blue already has three stores in Dallas, two in Downtown and one in Highland Park. The owners wanted the loan and grant to open a store at the West Davis location and for improvements to its “commissary” operation, which already runs out of that space, producing grab-and-go foods for its other three stores.
Zac Porter, who co-owns the company, declined to comment for this story and hasn’t said whether the company will take the deal. Even if they do, it’s unclear whether Royal Blue will open a store on West Davis or just expand its commissary kitchen there.
Why it’s trending: Oak Cliffers opposed to the Royal Blue subsidies argued that its price points are too high: “No one wants to pay $6.99 for a carton of eggs.” But market research says otherwise. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for “quality, convenience and healthfulness,” according to Winsight Grocery Business.
Oak Cliff became a beacon for vegans — vegetarians who also abstain from eggs and dairy — starting with Spiral Diner, which opened on Beckley Avenue over a decade ago. Now we have several all-vegan restaurants, including Recipe Oak Cliff and Vegan Food House.
The city’s first vegan grocery store, Lucky Mouth, opened on West Davis at Zang in January.
Husband-and-wife partners Adriana Martinez Miers and David Miers started the business online in 2018. Customers placed their orders on their website and picked up groceries once a week at Rebel Workshop, the Design District hair salon that Adriana owns.
“About three years ago, I decided that any diet other than vegan was ridiculous,” David says. “Nothing should have to suffer for me to have food on my plate. I don’t need second-hand protein. Cows get their protein from vegetables, and I can do the same.”
When the Mierses visited other cities such as New York, Portland, Austin and Houston, they found vegan groceries where they could eat anything in the store without reading labels.
It was a revelation, and they wanted that for themselves and for Dallas, so they did it themselves.
Lucky Mouth carries everything from dish soap and drinks to vegan shrimp and pastrami. They’re also applying for a license to sell beer and wine.
The owners are particularly excited about All Vegetarians Inc. bacon.
“It cooks like bacon. It tastes like bacon,” David says. “It’s awesome. It’s a top seller.”
Why it’s trending: The global vegan food market was valued at more than $12 billion in 2018, according to Grand View Research. Frozen foods also are an area of growth as more healthful and specialty foods are becoming available.
Ann Munchrath bought the Oak Cliff health food store where she worked in 1984.
Ann’s Health Food Center and Market provided fresh produce, healthy packaged foods and vitamins for decades at a time when many grocers wouldn’t touch Oak Cliff.
Now the company, which also has a store in Waxahachie, is run by a second generation of the Munchrath family, and they’re expanding with a new concept.
They’re opening a new store in the Square 67 shopping center on Red Bird Lane at U.S. 67 soon, and it’s different from the other two Ann’s stores.
This is a smaller concept offering a smoothie bar, prepackaged foods such as salads and wraps, plus some produce and supplements.
General manager Ryan Muchrath says Ann’s is taking a space that’s just 2,500 square feet, and they envision the new shop as a “healthy convenience store.” If this store does well, the company plans to expand the concept to other parts of the Dallas area, Munchrath says.
Why it’s trending: Convenience foods are one of the top grocery trends for 2020, according to FoodBev magazine. Not only do consumers want grab-and-go items, they’re also looking for meal kits and more variety in prepared foods.