To practice our observation skills, Emily Mongilio and I did a field visit to Market Street Grocery, a small store just outside of Market Square. I had never been before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Upon arrival, I realized this was no ordinary grocery store. In addition to selling groceries, the store also had a Gaby et Jules patisserie, a café and seating area, a hot food buffet, a make-your-own omelette bar, and a wine bar and shop. To gain some experience with the store, we got an omelette to share, Emily tried a coffee, we taste tested some pastries, and we bought a few groceries.
After some time of observing the environment and interactions that took place, I began to draw a connection between this store and a small French village. This past summer, I spent a month living in a tiny village in the south of France and working at a street market selling fresh produce. While Market Street Grocery is far from a European town, I saw a lot of similarities between the two which helped me better understand the space. The main three observations I had pertained to the layout, quality, and hospitality.
When French people shop, they don’t typically go to a large grocery store like Giant Eagle. Instead, they bring a reusable bag to the street market, and go from vender to vender buying the specialties of each. Though Market Street Grocery is entirely indoors, the variety of services they offer from hot brunch to an array of spices really reflected a European vibe.
As we walked around the shop, we noticed the types of products were different than those at a large grocery store. They were clearly fresh, and mostly only in-season produce was sold. The brands were also often local. There were definitely plenty that weren’t, but we focused on the fact that there were so many that were. A French market typically only sells local produce, and it is known to be fresher than a big store.
Finally, the atmosphere was very comfortable. There were at least 5 employees at the time we visited, and they were constantly offering assistance. They were friendly with customers, and it was clear that they had gained some regulars since their opening last spring. At a French market, customers are highly familiar with their venders. Going out to shop is very enjoyable as people converse and make jokes while picking out their produce. It is an open environment, and I felt like this store was doing well at creating one as well.
With this store popping up as the only real grocery store downtown, I have a few questions. Are Americans happy with the collection of services and European vibe it has produced? Which parts of the store are most popular? How much has their customer base grown since opening?
There was so much to observe with this new space, but using the AEIOU model was very helpful in the process.