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Village Pantry's New Beginning

The newly independent chain readies for the next phase of its store redesign project

INDIANAPOLIS -- With about a month of experience in its three redesigned stores under their collective belt, Village Pantry officials are ready for the next phase of the re-imaging program to begin. "We've got three of them completed. We've started [making] plans for the next 11 stores," Mike Emmons, director of operations for the Indianapolis-based chain, told CSP Daily News. "Our goal is to improve our sales and service to customers, and we're doing that so far."

The re-imaging program got under way in earnest in late October, when the chain [image-nocss] opened the doors on the first re-imaged store in Fishers, Ind., near Indianapolis.

"The store managers came in and said, 'Oh, I can't believe this!'" Emmons said at the time. "We told them what we were doing and showed them some of the mockups, but when they actually came in the store and saw it, they said, 'I can't wait till my store is this way.' So it's really, really exciting."

He added, "Some of our district managers are coming through and looking at the store and they're asking, 'When can I get this going [at my stores]?' "

And that will be the goal of the next phase of the project, which will convert stores in various regions of Village Pantry's market, allowing nearby store managers to get a firsthand look at the changes.

"We wanted to get out into some other areas geographically, so the store managers can come over, see what's going on and raise some excitement [about the changes]," Emmons said. "So we're doing some in Indianapolis, Lafayette, Kokomo, Cambridge City and some rural areas, as well."

Also generating excitement is the fact this is the first store redesign for the chain in a number of years, and certainly since the chain split from former parent company Marsh Supermarkets, under whose guidance Village Pantry often was treated as a stepchild, according to several sources.

The current management, under the leadership of CEO Charles "Mick" Parker and ownership of private equity company Sun Capital Partners Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., plans is to take the chain "from the 1970s and '80s into the 2000s," Parker told CSP Daily News. "We're adding new products, new services, new fixturing, new graphics and new signage."

The results so far?

"After four weeks, it's hard to say how it's going, but it's very encouraging on the inside sales and the food," said Emmons. "We'regetting some outside fuel growth that was unexpected but is deeply appreciated."

Village Pantry has 179 stores in Indiana and Michigan and has plans to grow to as many as 400 stores.

To read more about Village Pantry's new leadership and store redesign, watch for the December issue of CSP magazine.

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