This story has been updated from an earlier published version reflecting additional comment from the retailer.
The former Plumb’s Valu-Rite Foods chain in Michigan has begun converting its stores to the Great Lakes Fresh Market banner and is adding the Best Choice and Always Save private labels from Associated Wholesale Grocers.
The three-store chain, which was acquired last year by Menominee, Mich.-based L.M. Foods, is remodeling the stores with a focus on fresh foods and service, Dan Gentz, president of Great Lakes Fresh Market, said.
“We already have Meijer and Walmart and Aldi, but we are an independently owned store, and we feel there’s room for that here,” he said. “Outstanding service is what we are going to hang our hat on, as well as our perishables.”
Gentz is a longtime food industry veteran who most recently had been working for Menominee, Mich.-based Great Lakes Foods, which had taken over supply to Plumb’s last year before the acquisition. Both L.M. Foods and Great Lakes Foods are owned by local logistics industry veteran Tom Kuber.
Kuber has “made the opportunity available down the road” for Gentz to acquire the stores, he said.
“Ultimately, I would like to own these stores, but we’ll see how it goes,” said Gentz. “Right now I am just focused on getting the stores up and running, and turning them into local markets where people want to shop — making it their store.”
Adding the AWG private labels marks an expansion in the Western Michigan market in the wake of AWG’s acquisition of Affiliated Foods Midwest last year. As previously reported, the acquisition of AFM, with warehouses in Norfolk, Neb., and Kenosha, Wis., expanded AWG’s reach in the Upper Midwest.
Great Lakes Foods had been a customer of AFM but now buys product, including private label, from AWG, Gentz said. As Plumb’s, the store had been supplied by SpartanNash in Grand Rapids.
Great Lakes Foods primarily supplies independent retailers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula region and in Wisconsin. Its 300,000-square-foot distribution facility is located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the border of Wisconsin, near Green Bay.
Great Lakes Fresh Market operates stores in Muskegon, North Muskegon and Whitehall, in Western Michigan near Grand Rapids. The stores are undergoing a remodeling and rebranding over the next several months.
The remodeling includes new signage and décor, modern coolers, an expanded grab-and-go offering in the deli, and an expanded craft beer and wine section. Gentz said the company is investing about $500,000 to $600,000 per store on the effort.
The stores will include full-service bakeries and delis, a selection of hot prepared foods such as rotisserie and fried chicken, and store-made sandwiches and salads, he said.
Great Lakes Fresh Market will also carry Great Lakes Foods’ Signature Meat program, which includes store-made sausages, gourmet burgers and marinated meats and poultry and other value-added meat items made fresh in-store, according to Gentz.
He’s also looking to expand the offering of local items, including more local produce.
Gentz also said he’s currently evaluating the possibility of reopening a former Plumb’s location in Norton Shores, Mich., which the chain had shuttered last year before the acquisition by L.M. Foods amid deteriorating sales and in-stock conditions.