Piggly Wiggly

Chases its own tail with a new racetrack layout
Posted February 20, 2003

Most new grocery prototypes end up with the familiar rectangular layout and parallel aisles due to space and financial constraints, according to Wayne Wiertzema, vp of store engineering and real estate at Fresh Brands Inc. (Sheboygan, Wis.), even when store planners aim to create something unique to the supermarket genre. Not the case with Fresh Brands'new Piggly Wiggly in the Washington Square center of Sheboygan. "We wanted to achieve something different this time," Wiertzema says. "So designers thought outside the box and came up with a circular layout within a square space."

The hometown store, which replaces another Piggly Wiggly in the same neighborhood, is the grocery anchor of a new retail center, a site that lay fallow for years before the developer was able to bring it to shopping center quality.

The broad circle of its layout is akin to an orbit, with round departments like planets on the periphery. The circular theme is reiterated in ocular skylights placed strategically around the 60,000-square-foot space; one main skylight with a 60-foot diameter radiates like a sun in the center. "We have 12 skylights altogether," explains Michael Houser, vice chairman and chief marketing officer of Fresh Brands. "The natural light creates a more pleasant, soothing shopping experience for our customers. Besides the centerpiece skylight, each department revolves around its own skylight, varying in sizes to a minimum of 10 feet across."

The 20-foot exposed ceiling, painted a dramatic eggplant, is also equipped with halogens, mercury vapor lighting and fluorescents. The electric lighting is set up to dim when the outdoor light is high. Lighting around the nexus skylight is indirect, shining up instead of down. "This technique requires 30 percent less wattage than direct light to achieve the same level of brightness," says Wiertzema.

"We arranged the refrigerated cases in the circular format, too, rather than creating a right-angled display," says Houser. "The way we designed the space, our customers never run into corners. They don't have to worry about getting hit from behind with another cart." Because of the size issue, explains Wiertzema, aspects of the new look - such as skylights and décor - will be retrofitted in some other existing stores, but full integration of the circular concept can only take place in spaces of 50,000 square feet or more.

Other elements unique to this Piggly Wiggly include a "Cuisine Express" department situated at the front of the store, between checkout lanes, for grab-and-go dinners. An enhanced wine and spirits department features a walk-in beverage cooler with a playful gray and mauve jester-hat graphic.

Crisp black fixturing dominates the store, along with brick and stone accents, though each department is differentiated with its own color palette. The "Farmers Market" has white, beige and turquoise vinyl tile, while a faux trellis-style fence runs behind the produce along the wall. The deli is a dramatic contrast of large, white neon signage and dark wall tile, as well as checkerboard black and tan flooring tile. The Piggly Wiggly coffee station is slyly reminiscent of Starbucks, with mocha-toned striping and a round green insignia - featuring the Piggly Wiggly logo's head in the center. "It's actually Fresh Brands'coffee," laughs Houser, "though we provide a similar assortment of muffins and biscotti."

Fresh Brands is being opportunistic about recreating the prototype around the country; one is currently under construction near Milwaukee, while four other locations will soon be announced.

Client Team: Fresh Brands Inc., Sheboygan, Wis. - Elwood Winn, president and ceo; Michael Houser, executive vp and chief marketing officer; Wayne Wiertzema, director, store engineering and real estate; Dan Genson, store engineer; Karla Krueger, designer; Kim Harder, project manager

Architect: Thomas Design, Fond du Lac, Wis.

Outside Design Consultant: Shaw Design Group, Detroit

General Contractor: Jos. Schmitt & Sons Construction Co., Sheboygan, Wis.

Suppliers: Excel Engineering Inc., Fond du Lac, Wis. (structural engineering); H.J. Martin, Green Bay, Wis., Omni Paint & Glass, Oshkosh, Wis., Specht Electric, Sheboygan, Wis., (contracting); Kalwall, Manchester, N.H. (skylights); USG, Chicago (accent tiles); Accent Store Fixtures Inc., Palatine, Ill., Barker Wire Products Inc., Keosauqua, Iowa, Hussmann Corp., Bridgeton, Mo., Kason Fixtureware, Franklin Park, Ill., Lozier Shelving, Omaha, Neb., Southern Store Fixtures, Bessemer, Ala. (fixturing); Ann Sacks Tile, Kohler, Wis., Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pa., Dal-Tile, Dallas, Flooring Works, Wilkes Barre, Pa. (flooring); Bruck Lighting, Costa Mesa, Calif., Abolite, Cincinnati, Cooper Lighting, Peachtree City, Ga., Indy Lighting, Fishers, Ind., Lightolier, Fall River, Mass., Prudential, Los Angeles, Spero, Cleveland (lighting); Formica, Cincinnati, Pionite, Auburn, Maine, Wilsonart Intl., Temple, Texas (laminates); Cultured Stone Co., Napa, Calif., Glen-Gery, Wyomissing, Pa., Len-Tex, North Walpol, N.H., LSI, Louisville, Ky., Pineapple Grover Design, Boynton Beach, Fla., Tower, Fairlawn, Ohio (wall coverings)