ST. LOUIS — The corner building sitting at the intersection of Ninth Street and Olive at first glance doesn’t look different from any of the other structures in the heart of downtown. Its gray and black facade looks a little more modern, perhaps, than surrounding structures, but it blends in with its surroundings just fine.
Then, there’s the signage. “Culinaria: A Schnucks Market,” it reads. What will soon go inside this building will be nothing like anything downtown St. Louis has seen.
There’s also a small white banner hanging below the Culinaria sign that reads, “Opening Soon.” St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets Inc. plans to open its first downtown location in September.
“We’re looking at two demographics,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president of produce for Schnucks. “Loft dwellers and people who work downtown.”
Work was buzzing inside Culinaria in early July, with workers busy hanging lighting fixtures, building cabinet space and installing coolers. The new store will be much smaller than a normal Schnucks, measuring about 10,000 square feet, O’Brien said. That tight space means Schnucks will have to be more selective in what goods and products the store carries.
“We’re going to have a lot of prepared foods,” O’Brien said. “But, we think produce will go big. We won’t offer as much because of space, but we’ll offer what people want.”
Schnucks, which has about 72 stores in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area and 105 stores overall in seven states, intends on offering an entirely new format in Culinaria, which will include a mezzanine that will offer a wine department with a tapas tasting area and seating. There probably won’t be space for a Schnucks Cooks program, a program that expanded to 11 Schnucks stores last year.
Despite the tighter quarters, O’Brien said customers will find no problems in be able to do their complete food shopping in the new Culinaria.
“Whatever we think is going to happen, we’ll adjust,” he said. “With perishables like produce, you have to adjust. If you don’t, then you throw out a lot of fruit.”