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Indie Closeup: Big Apple-Sized Ideas

As The Goods Mart opens its 3rd store, innovation is key to success
Photograph courtesy of The Goods Mart

NEW YORK — Call it ideation on steroids. Rachel Krupa, founder and CEO of The Goods Mart in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, has long remained ahead of the curve in pushing out innovative retail concepts since opening her first convenience store in Silver Lake, Calif., in 2018.

With a mission to champion eco-friendly living, Krupa sells no single-serve plastic bottles in the store. Personalized “curation boxes” of healthy snacks are designed for gifting. The proceeds from customer tips (and they tip well) are donated to special causes such as women’s shelters. Events such as a Jamaican cookout are held outside her doors. And at a time when the nation was a powder keg of stress, Krupa erected inspirational murals on the store’s front windows to lower the temperature in the neighborhood.

That ideation is fluid, too, always evolving to new heights. The Michigan-born public relations specialist (in 2010, she founded Krupa Consulting in Los Angeles, a firm specializing in promotion of eco-conscious brands of food and home goods) has her sights set on more cutting-edge strategy as 2022 dawns. One example is the deployment of “Taste & Tell,” a QR code survey that allows Goods Mart customers to offer feedback about product brands and, in return, receive a free product. “It’s regarded as our version of sampling,” says Krupa.

Another is the debut of “The Good Vibes,” a biweekly Zoom event in which Krupa hosts an expert in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space. Think investor, co-packing expert, large retail buyer or social media/digital marketing expert. “All the brand [suppliers] in the store are free to ask them any and all their questions.”

Meanwhile in retail expansion, Krupa opened a new store in 30 Rockefeller Center (pictured above) this week.

“The goal for the team is to make all customers feel better as they walk out as when they walked in.”

If that wasn’t enough, Krupa recently launched two subscription box programs. “What’s Good” is a best-of-the-best compendium of emerging brands hitting The Goods Mart shelves, while “Founded” chooses products based on “the tastiest and coolest female and BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color]-founded brands in our store.”

Read ahead for an in-depth conversation with Krupa about how retailers such as herself—after weathering the storm during COVID-19—are looking ahead to more prosperity in 2022.

Q: You debuted your store in Silver Lake a few years ago and now operate in SoHo. Can you describe how niche buying differs between West Coast c-store shoppers and the New York City consumer?

A: New Yorkers and Angelenos shop differently. SoCal shoppers are used to bigger box grocery stores where you can drive and stock up for the week. New Yorkers have an amazing bodega culture, and they are used to shopping more often and for daily items.

Q: How is business going currently and what were the main lessons learned during the COVID-19 era?

A: Business is going well, and although it’s been a journey over the past year and a half, I’m very grateful for the lessons learned: Be nimble and be willing to try new things. If they work, then it’s amazing; if not, we pivot again. We started our e-commerce and snack boxes because our customers asked us to mail their favorite things to them since they were no longer in New York. We also dug deep to figure out our purpose in the retail/convenience-store space, as our mission has always been [but much more now] to help our community in and outside our store. Also, we’re even more committed to helping emerging brands so they can thrive, to uplifting our community and the team in our store. Together, we can do so much more than working independently.

Q: What food and beverage categories are flourishing?

A: We’re seeing refrigerated bars/items starting to boom in addition to nonsparkling beverages, as well as interesting ingredients. Our customers are asking more questions about the founders and the missions behind the brands. They are also willing to try new things: Hello ramen chocolate bar or hot sauce for your coffee.

Q: Do you have a company mission statement—formal or informal—that keeps you and staff on point and focused? 

A: The goal for the team is to make all customers feel better as they walk out as when they walked in, through finding their favorite item, discovering a new product, getting a great coffee for $1.25 or a friendly smile from our team—now a smile with their eyes. We also ensure our team is trying the products that fill our store so they are knowledgeable and able to answer our customers’ questions. We also like to keep the vibe light by playing great music and being happy.

Q: You have operated form one coast to the other. Is a retail foray to the Midwest in the future?

A: I hope eventually to expand to the Midwest where there’s less access to the better options. If we could pop up on a heavily trafficked highway stop or a place where younger families are starting to move, that’s where we could really make a difference.

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