When Pat Brown took the reins as CEO of Natural Markets Food Group last fall, it was clear that something big was in the works. The company, which owns the popular Mrs. Green’s Natural Market as well as Planet Organic Markets in Canada, had decided upon a redesign of its Mrs. Green’s outlets, with Brown at the helm. Having recently opened a new Rye and Manhattan location sporting the updated design, Brown is already taking the company in a bold new direction.
Mrs. Green’s long-standing presence in the area’s organic and natural foods sector is one of the market’s strengths and, according to Brown, one of the reasons a redesign was necessary. “Mrs. Greens has been around since 1992, and had basically stayed the same,” he notes. “So, about 18 months ago we did a pretty significant consumer research study in Westchester and the surrounding areas, and we found that customers wanted more fresh products as well as day-to-day groceries.”
With his marching orders in hand, Brown set out to make his customers’ dreams a reality. The scope of the redesign was another issue altogether, and one that he felt should be particularly wide-ranging. Brown reached out to the celebrated Oregon-based design firm King Retail Solutions to help clarify his plans.
“We wanted to continue in expanding our offerings of organic produce while adding as many local products as possible,” says Brown. “We placed our natural living products in the center of the store by the checkout, we have increased the size of our produce offerings, we are adding grass-fed meat as well as sustainable seafood when available, and we have greatly increased our prepared food presence with an organic salad bar and gluten-free options.”
However, Mrs. Green’s products were not the only aspects to be reconfigured. “We wanted our stores to be a happy place and we wanted to add a little bit of color,” remarks Brown. “So, we redesigned our logo to make it a bit more fresh. We wanted [the interiors] to be a little bit brighter than what some of our stores had been, and lighten the space up so that people can enjoy their shopping trip and engage with our knowledgeable associates.”
The first store to receive this thorough redesign was Mrs. Green’s new location in Manhattan’s West Village, followed by a storefront in Rye that opened earlier this month. “We opened our store in the West Village about seven weeks ago,” says Brown. “Manhattan is a tough environment, so we knew we needed to recreate what Mrs. Green’s looks like both in the aesthetics of the store and in our assortment.”
To this end, Brown hoped to balance a more open floor plan with an amplified stock. “We have tried to answer everybody’s request: they want space to be able to operate, to see as much as they possibly can when they walk in the front door, and they want a good assortment of natural and healthy products.”
Brown has also pioneered Mrs. Green’s turn toward more locally sourced products. “The other piece that I am really excited about is the partnerships we are developing with local suppliers in Westchester County, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the lower Hudson Valley,” he says. “Besides getting our customers excellent products, being able to partner with local producers to grow the local food economy is a great thing to do.”
A new shop in Dobbs Ferry, which Brown hopes to open in 2016, and a redesign of Mrs. Green’s other 14 area locations are next on the list. Above all, Brown sees the market’s revamp as a way to ensure Mrs. Green’s relevance in the years ahead. “We wanted to make it timeless,” says Brown. “Whether it is 2015 or 2020, we wanted Mrs. Green’s to be a place that people felt good about when they came in, and I think that we have created that.”