Store Tour: Green Day

Eclectic Green Zebra Grocery defies black-and-white definition

By
Amanda Baltazar, Freelance writer

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Is it a convenience store? Is it a supermarket? Customers may ask these questions when they first visit Green Zebra Grocery in Portland, Ore., but they may not be able to answer—even after shopping the entire store.

Green Zebra, which opened in October, was designed to be both of these things, and neither.

“People are surprised when they come in and see this is not a typical convenience store,” says founder and CEO Lisa Sedlar. Formerly president and CEO of New Seasons Market in Portland, Sedlar set up this store with a New Seasons colleague, Shannon Hiller-Webb, co-founder and marketing director.

“We get to redefine what it means to be convenient,” Sedlar says. “We’re at the nexus of convenience and healthy.”

The goal was to be that small store shoppers can walk to. Prices were also set to fall between convenience and grocery stores. “The small-format store is the anchor of a neighborhood,” Sedlar says.

And she believes we’ll see more of this. It’s already coming, as 7-Eleven adds more fresh foods and convenience stores start to explore what healthy and fresh mean to their customers. “It’s a good thing,” says Sedlar. “All boats rise with the tide. It’s about having more access to healthy foods.”

Keeping It Simple

Healthy is one of the tenets of Green Zebra’s business. The others are freshness, convenience, local and a limited choice that Sedlar describes as good, better and best options. The offerings are kept to a minimum for two reasons: space, and to limit the decisions customers—whom she calls “eaters”—have to make.

Green Zebra Grocery is 5,600 square feet, half of which is devoted to fresh foods. There are about 32 linear feet for produce, with as much as possible coming from local farmers; a cheese bar; a bulk section; a deli; and a hot bar manned by a professional chef whose focus is health and convenience, leading to items such as a healthier mac and cheese that has less fat and more vegetables. In fact, the salad bar and hot food bar are, respectively, No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of sales, Sedlar says.

Head into the center store section of Green Zebra and you’ll be surprised again. The aisles are narrow; even here, there’s a strong emphasis on healthy, with products such as kale chips and edamame snacks on the shelves.

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