MAKING WAVES

Roche Bros. Supermarkets made a splash with the recent opening of a unique full-service store in the tourist mecca of Cape Cod, a brand new market for the Boston-area chain.The nearly 40,000-square-foot store, in fast-growing Mashpee on the southwestern end of the Cape, is attempting to meet the longstanding demand for an upscale supermarket, while appealing to annual vacationers and transient tourists

Roche Bros. Supermarkets made a splash with the recent opening of a unique full-service store in the tourist mecca of Cape Cod, a brand new market for the Boston-area chain.

The nearly 40,000-square-foot store, in fast-growing Mashpee on the southwestern end of the Cape, is attempting to meet the longstanding demand for an upscale supermarket, while appealing to annual vacationers and transient tourists who seek ready-made, premium food products, and can appreciate a wide selection of fresh foods supplied by local merchants.

In its early weeks of operation, the Mashpee location has already become a destination for vacationers. However, during the research phase of the store's development, the chain's initial focus was on permanent residents, said Paul McGillivray, vice president of merchandising and marketing for Roche Bros., which operates 16 stores.

"Although the area is a prime vacation and tourist area, this part of the Cape has a sizeable and growing year-round population," said McGillivray. "The needs of those customers are equally important and we made sure that there was sufficient year-round business to support a store."

After realizing the year-round potential of the market, Roche Bros. then took aim at the yearly wave of vacationers who flood the Cape from May through October, many of whom stay in the area for months at a time. According to McGillivray, around 50% of the vacationers have second homes on the Cape that they use all season or on weekends, while the remaining 50% are transient vacationers who typically come for a week or several weeks at a time.

Because the local market is full of vacationers and beach-loving locals, Roche Bros. was committed to creating a casual environment that still managed to embody the chain's high-quality reputation. This combination of laid-back, yet upscale shopping is immediately evident as one approaches the store.

"We have an outdoor produce area that was designed to create a freshness impression with the consumer by highlighting the produce that is in peak season at the same time as the tourist peak season," said McGillivray. "It's a farmer's market-style produce area that makes it more casual for the people who want to both eat and shop more casually while in a vacation-type environment."

The outdoor produce section is completely covered to protect the fresh food from the elements. To add visual interest, the area is festooned with hanging baskets of flowers and other "planting" annuals that are for sale, creating a colorful profusion of blooms that beckons shoppers into the section. Some of the flowers even spill out into the parking lot close to a nearby road.

The outdoor area features approximately one-fourth of the store's total produce with a more substantial, year-round produce area inside. The indoor department features many of the same items that are merchandised outside, as well as a floral department overflowing with cut flowers.

Most of the items that make up the store's produce and floral departments are purchased daily from a Boston produce market or local growers, said McGillivray.

While the indoor produce area is a necessity, having the outdoor space provides a unique and flexible shopping environment that enables the store to scale back during the months when vacationers have all gone home, said McGillivray. Later this year, the farmer's market-style displays will simply be taken down and stored for the winter.

Inside, the retailer's extensive "Home Cooking To Go" line of prepared foods covers one wall of the store, offering a wide assortment of hot and prepared foods and gourmet items. "We have a self-service wing bar with six varieties of chicken wings that has been a big hit with vacationers," said McGillivray, noting the Mashpee store is the only one in the chain to offer the bar, which also carries appetizers such as chicken tenders, calzones and an assortment of dips.

The store offers traditional rotisserie chicken in service and self-service cases, a service chef's case featuring higher-end prepared foods and a service hot case with chicken, side dishes and other meal items, McGillivray said.

Other products from the Roche Bros. kitchen include pre-packaged entrees, such as chicken pot pie, meat loaf, lasagnas and quiche. The department also features sandwiches, salads and sushi that is prepared fresh daily by an in-house sushi chef, said McGillivray. As is true for all stores in the chain, this store's sushi department is leased from an outside source, Hissho Sushi, Charlotte, N.C. This unit carries around 30 sushi menu items, half of which are available at all times in a chilled case and the remaining 15 delicacies can be made upon request, said McGillivray.

Unlike Roche's other stores, this one features a freestanding deli that was strategically placed by one of the store's grocery aisles.

"We've positioned the department against an aisle instead of against a perimeter wall and lined the back with stainless steel coolers that create a unique decor and backdrop," said McGillivray. "The deli department features the best in sliced meats and cheeses and pre-packaged, grab-and-go deli salads that are very popular."

The store will continue to emphasize cheese and crackers throughout the rest of the summer as handy grab-and-go selections that are perfect for picnic lunches or for a snack on the beach, he noted.

Sited in an area renowned for its abundance of fresh seafood, the store boasts a 16-foot, open, market-style seafood case stocked full of everything from fish fillets, fish steaks and cooked and raw shrimp to a wide array of shellfish. The Mashpee store also features more cooked shrimp and cooked lobster meat than the chain's other stores, he said.

"Because the store is around two hours or less from the greater Boston area, there are a lot of people here who have a well-developed appreciation for seafood, so we stock a wide variety," said McGillivray. "At this location, we also have a couple of expanded shellfish options and a few more ready-to-grill items like seafood kabobs that are doing well so far."

Many of the store's fresh seafood items are supplied by MF Foley Fish Co. of New Bedford, Mass., a local company that also sells seafood to some of the finest restaurants and hotels throughout the region.

Modeled after the format used in the chain's other stores, the meat department features a full-service butcher and a large selection of top-of-the-line meats including Certified Angus Beef and a wide array of grill-ready, prepared items.

The bakery department includes scratch, mix, thaw and baked breads, rolls, desserts and pastries, and features the chain's signature muffin cart that offers shoppers an assortment of muffins served directly from the tins where they were baked.

"A lot of the bakery items are the same as those in our other stores, but we've placed more of a focus on merchandising different items in this store, particularly the bigger, fancier desserts," said McGillivray. "We predicted that this time of year, people in the area would be interested in bigger dessert items, which has happened. Because people tend to splurge monetarily and also splurge on calories when on vacation, we've noticed that our $8, $10 and $12 desserts, like pies and cakes that can feed an entire family, are doing really well."

The bigger desserts are faring so well that Roche Bros. has recently added Key Lime pie to its bakery department, an item that will soon be rolled out to the other stores, he added.

Because Massachusetts limits retailers to three liquor-licensed locations, this store does not carry beer, wine or liquor. However, the supermarket devised a clever way to meet the non-alcoholic needs of shoppers. The store has two, 12-foot coolers conveniently located within the beverage aisle along with traditional shelving units stacked with soft drinks, water and other drinks. One of the coolers is designated for multi-packs of soda while the second cooler is stocked full of individual servings of tea and alternative beverages. Along with its specialty departments and innovative display creations, the Mashpee store also has a full line of traditional grocery and private-label products that can be found in all of the chain's locations. The store also features the Roche Bros. full-service catering department, Creative Entertainment Catering, which in an area like Cape Cod is expected to be busy nearly year-round.

In all, the Mashpee store encompasses the best of the retailer's standard offerings, with a number of new and creative touches that make the location one of a kind. In less than two months, Roche Bros. has already experienced a great reaction from consumers.

"So far, the response has been better than we expected," said McGillivray. "We have a lot of loyal customers who've shopped our stores in other areas, then moved or retired to the Cape, so it didn't take as much as we thought to get things rolling."

Brand New Format

The Mashpee, Mass., store on scenic Cape Cod is a dramatic departure for Roche Bros. Supermarkets.

Roche Bros. made many changes to its traditional format to accommodate local needs and tastes. The company developed a flexible, portable merchandising concept that enables it to significantly change several store departments depending on the season. For instance, an outdoor farmers' market-style produce department, with an abundance of seasonal fruits and vegetables, hanging flower baskets and annual flowers, is one of the areas that can be completely removed when peak season is over, said Paul McGillivray, vice president of merchandising and marketing for Roche Bros.

"When produce is in its lowest point in January and February, we can take the outdoor section away, and replace it with fireplace logs and other nonperishables," he said.

The company incorporated portable merchandising equipment to allow for the movement of entire displays, even refrigerated cases when necessary, McGillivray said.

"We typically put the deli against a back wall so there is access to a back room and cooler, but in this store, the deli backs up to a grocery aisle, with a huge, refrigerated back wall that provides a dramatic backdrop for the department and easier access to storage," he said.

From the outside, the Cape Cod store looks nothing like a typical Roche store. The red brick exterior and deep burgundy awnings blend in nicely with nearby buildings.