he said. Customers will see familiar products, as the
Urban Pantry kept the best sellers of what it offered
before and extended the lines of some products, too.
The focus shifted to more fresh items — bread,
pastries, cheese and olives by the pound, specialty
meats, gelato, sauces, dips, whole fruit
and fresh-cut flowers. In addition, the
wine selection more than quadrupled
to 500 varieties, all priced between $6
and $25 a bottle. “A lot of our products
are from customer feedback, but a
good portion we can cross-utilize for
our catering business, which shares
our kitchen,” said Emma.
The food also received scrutiny,
as Emma brought in a new chef to
revamp the menu. “Ninety percent of
our recipes are new,” he said. A big part
of the change involved increasing the
grab-and-go selections. “Customers
kept asking us for more to-go options, especially for
dinner, so we added a big cooler and will stock it with
breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings,” said Emma.
For breakfast, Urban Pantry offers several parfaits
and fruit salad from the cooler. For lunch, cold sandwiches, soups and salads, along with various dips and
spreads, are available for takeout. For dinner, five to
six entrees are available all day in the cooler. Many
items also are served for on-premises consumption.
Part of the renovation involved reconfiguring the
seating to save floor space and still offer an inviting
area for in-store dining. Emma installed countertop
seating along the long window area at the front of
the store and retained some of the café tabletops
with chairs for the middle of the floor. A large farm
table seats eight and holds retail products during
the week and hosts brunch groups on the weekend.
During warm weather, customers can relax in additional seating on the sidewalk out front.
Getting the Word Out
Customer demographics drove many of Urban Pan-
try’s modifications. “We have a steady mix of people,
from the high-income bracket because of high-end
nearby condos, to commuters because of our loca-
tion close to a Metro station,” he said. “We also get
school children stopping by on their way home from
the bus stop and young families, too.”
Because of its diverse customer base, Emma and
his team paid close attention to pricing, wanting
to keep the cost of ev-
erything — from wine
to coffee to pre-made
dinners — reasonable
enough to reach a broad swatch of consumers.
“Since everyone in this neighborhood eventually
comes by our store, we wanted to make sure we
could appeal to them,” he said.
With such a high-traffic location, Emma doesn’t
use a lot of traditional advertising, preferring to
utilize social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
and Pinterest — along with the store’s own website
to create an online community for customers. “We
rely very heavily on word-of-mouth to spread the
word of our store,” he said. “That was key to our
success as Little City Gourmet and I believe it will
be the same for Urban Pantry.”
Urban Pantry also concentrates on in-store mar-
keting to draw attention to its products and special
events, like its weekly Saturday wine tastings and
weekend brunches. Staff also occasionally visits the
nearby Metro station to hand out coffee sleeves at
peak times to drum up interest.
Emma sees the move from café to Urban Pantry
as one that will continue to evolve in the coming
months. “Things will be fluid over the next six
months or so as we look at what’s selling and what’s
not in terms of merchandise,” he said. What’s not
going to change is the new commitment to being the
neighborhood’s upscale convenience store.
Sarah Hamaker is a NACS Magazine and NACS
Daily contributing writer. Visit her online at www.
The Urban Pantry stocks eggs, milk, pasta sauces, flour,
baking soda and other products to fill a home cupboard.