EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Hy-Vee Inc.’s newest store opened here September 28 with many of the amenities that the regional supermarket chain is known for plus new features that modernize the shopping experience.
At 92,163 square feet, it’s one of the West Des Moines, Iowa-based chain’s largest stores and one of just four it operates in Wisconsin.
“I’m obviously a little biased, but I think it’s a beautiful store,” Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s chief executive officer, said during a pre-opening tour of the premises (see photos on page 6).
Along with a nearly identical store that opened last month in Grimes, Iowa, the Eau Claire location is the most technologically advanced of Hy-Vee’s 286 stores in eight Midwestern states. More than 100 flat-screen monitors provide shoppers with marketing information or product ideas. The store’s shelf tags are tiny screens displaying prices that are updated remotely. And the chain’s Scan and Go technology lets shoppers use their phones to pay for their items and skip the checkout line.
Upon entering the store, shoppers pass a Starbucks counter, a floral shop and a Midwest Heritage Bank branch. A stroll along the perimeter brings customers to a health and beauty department, a nail salon, and a pharmacy. Further on, shoppers will find mini-departments or “showrooms,” some of which offer merchandise from Hy-Vee partners, including DSW shoes, Joe Fresh apparel and Johnson Fitness & Wellness. Each showroom features a digital interface that lets shoppers get more information about the products displayed on-site as well as other offerings from the supplier, and to order merchandise that will be delivered to the shopper’s home.
Hy-Vee departments include a full-service bakery, a candy shop and a liquor section with walk-in coolers for beer and wine and selections from growing categories like whiskey and cognac. There’s also a walk-in cigar humidor.
A large, open food hall offers options for fast-casual dining, including Hy-Vee’s new breakfast menu, a pub with full bar and outdoor patio, and preparations from the likes of Market Grille Express, Long Island Deli and a Wahlburgers at Hy-Vee.
A Mealtime to Go kiosk aims to reduce the risk of food-borne illness by assembling salads out of precut vegetables stored in refrigerated canisters. Customers use a touch screen to select from a number of options or to design their own salads. The machine drops the veggies into a bowl in less time than it takes the diner to decide which salad she wants, said Tina Potthoff, senior vice president of communications at Hy-Vee.