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To become less like a café and more like a convenience store,
Urban Pantry changed its name and format.
BY SARAH HAMAKER
Most convenience stores these days are on a mis- sion to become better known as foodservice stablishments that just happen
to sell gasoline or cigarettes. But one retailer started
out life as a café (called Little City Gourmet) and
recently rebranded and reopened as upscale convenience store Urban Pantry.
Back in April 2013, the business debuted in
Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., as
a storefront café serving breakfast and lunch with a
lot of seating and a tiny retail section stocked with
wine and a few other food-related products. Less
than nine months later, the café underwent a whole-
sale makeover and reemerged as the Urban Pantry.
“Our customers were asking for more retail items,
such as grab-and-go food, a bigger wine selection
and other fresh food. So I thought, why not change
it around during our slow time this winter?” said
owner Max Emma.
Urban Pantry stocks eggs, milk, pasta sauces,
flour, baking soda and other products to fill home
cupboards. “We will probably add some small necessities, like toothbrushes and soap, because I want
to have a little bit of everything,” said Emma.
A Shift in Focus
The evolution came about not for lack of customers
— the café bustled over the summer and had a steady
stream of guests during the fall — but rather to meet
customer demand for more retail products. “We’re
basically doing a 180 with our retail product offerings,”
Urban Pantry’s evolution came about not
for lack of customers but rather to meet
customer demand for more retail products.