NEW STORE DELIVERS ON FRESH-FOOD FORMAT

HARLEYSVILLE, Pa. -- The new Henning's Market, completely redesigned and significantly larger than the one it replaced, is delivering double-digit sales increases for the owners of the single store.Expanded fresh departments, particularly the food-service area, are focal points in the two-story, 57,400-square-foot store in Pennsylvania Dutch country. In fact, fresh food sales are soaring, said Carey

HARLEYSVILLE, Pa. -- The new Henning's Market, completely redesigned and significantly larger than the one it replaced, is delivering double-digit sales increases for the owners of the single store.

Expanded fresh departments, particularly the food-service area, are focal points in the two-story, 57,400-square-foot store in Pennsylvania Dutch country. In fact, fresh food sales are soaring, said Carey Henning, whose great-great-grandfather, Henry Delp, established the family business in 1889.

"I've seen double-digit increases in all my departments," Henning told SN. "The perishable departments went up the greatest. All perishable departments have done exceedingly well for us."

The result of more than three years of planning, design and construction, the store features an unusual layout designed to be user-friendly while showcasing the merchandise. The store has aisles of varied lengths with some angles, a prominent staircase leading to the mezzanine level, two main entrances and separate checkouts for food service and coffee shop customers. There are colorful wall murals, open production areas in the food-service area, gas fireplaces on both levels, a community meeting room on the mezzanine, and a new floral shop. On the main level, there's an eating area with seating for 36. On the mezzanine level, there's additional seating for 46, not including the community room, which can seat 54.

The store replaced the old Henning's Market, located in another part of the shopping center owned by the Henning family. Nearly 30 years old, the former store was about 30,000 square feet, and had a traditional design with 15 straight aisles. Originally Henning planned to remodel. But as he and design consultants worked together on the project, they realized their plans were too big for the existing space. It made more sense to move to a larger footprint in the same shopping center.

Henning said he had several goals in mind for the new store. He wanted to create an inviting place that customers would enjoy visiting, and also wanted a layout that would make shopping easy and convenient. A unique floor plan would help it stand out on both accounts, and make it stand out in this competitive market, with competitors like Safeway-owned Genuardi's and Clemens Family Markets.

There aren't many restaurants in the Harleysville area, and Henning wanted to expand on the store's food-service area to give it more of a restaurant feeling, and highlight the store's made-from-scratch prepared foods. Most of the baked goods, salads and dishes on the hot foods bar are made in the store's kitchen.

Harleysville, a bedroom community within commuting distance of Philadelphia, has its share of two-income families. Census data that revealed a majority of area households had income in excess of $75,000 suggested there would be support for an upscale store. Henning wanted to appeal to well-to-do consumers.

"Going forward, I felt we needed to make more of a destination store," Henning said. "I wanted specialty store appeal."

In search of a design company, Henning found King Retail Solutions of Eugene, Ore. Henning was looking for fresh ideas. In designing the layout, they aimed for an appealing atmosphere that wasn't too hip. The store is highlighted throughout in warm tones of terra cotta, beige, antique ivory and taupe.

"We weren't trying to do anything highly contemporary," said Christopher Studach, director of design for King, who led a team of designers on the Henning's project. "We were trying to do something warm, inviting and non-threatening. It wasn't intended to be cutting edge, just extremely well done."

King put Henning in touch with Brian Salus of Richmond, Va.-based Salus and Associates, who designed the extensive food service area on the right side of the store. The section features a mix of service and self-service stations offering hot and cold items, including a hot foods bar, fruit and salad bars. There's also a grab-and-go section, dubbed Henning's In a Hurry, hugging the staircase leading to the mezzanine. Soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts and ice cream are offered. Up front, there's also a grill where shoppers can order burgers and, on Sundays, waffles and omelets. Further down the aisle, custom-made pizza and panini sandwiches are available.

For inspiration, Salus took Henning to Ohio where they visited several top-flight stores including West Point Market in Akron, Dorothy Lane Market stores in Dayton, and Mustard Seed Market & Cafe, based in Solon east of Cleveland. Elsewhere, they visited stores operated by Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets and Richmond, Va.-based Ukrop's. Henning and Salus also visited a handful of successful restaurants to gather ideas for the food-service department.

"In the end, it was Carey who blended these ideas together with both his own and ours to deliver on his vision," Salus said. "This is a truly unique and profitable store featuring the best of the best in decor, food concepts, food delivery systems and customer service. It is the destination in Harleysville."

Plan Mark, a division of Supervalu, Henning's wholesaler, oversaw the architectural and structural work.

"It was a long evolution to get where we are today," Henning said, adding there's very little he would change about the design.

The project was expensive. Henning declined to say how much was spent on the new store, but noted the cost was above the average. "It's more expensive than the typical store," he said. "We spent more money knowing we wouldn't remodel in three to five years. I expect to get 10 to 12 years out of this."

The company hired an additional 40 employees, bringing the staffing level up to 205 full- and part-time associates. Open since November, the store has not gone unnoticed by the community. In fact, the new Henning's has attracted some brand-new customers, Henning said.

"I've had lots of compliments," he said. "Customers do say 'Wow' when they walk in."