Pittsburgh-based grocer Giant Eagle is doubling the number of Market District stores in Ohio with today's official opening of its expanded and remodeled store in Dublin.

July 11, 2013

Pittsburgh-based grocer Giant Eagle is doubling the number of Market District stores in Ohio with today's official opening of its expanded and remodeled store in Dublin.

The 94,000-square-foot store at 6700 Perimeter Loop Rd. started as a $14 million renovation and expansion of a former Big Bear store in late 2010. It became a bigger project and was transformed into the chain's upscale Market District concept during the past year, said spokesman Brock Schmaltz.

The grocery chain opened its first Ohio Market District two years ago in the Kingsdale Center in Upper Arlington and plans to open its third in Solon, in northeastern Ohio, next month.

"We'll be focused around high-quality foods, innovating, continually growing in the market, and growing with the market," said Brian Ferrier, the grocer's regional director of operations in central Ohio.

Like some other regional grocers, Giant Eagle is trying to be the store of choice for all types of shoppers, from the affluent customers like those in the Dublin area, to the middle-class and value-focused shoppers.

"We've seen a lot of strong regional retail players develop a tiered format strategy," said Alida Destrempe, grocery analyst for Kantar Retail, an industry consultant.

"They roll out multiple formats that either fit certain shopping behaviors, or go after certain shopper demographic or income groups," Destrempe said.

For example, Giant Eagle is transitioning its Valu King discount grocery format to Good Cents Grocery + More to appeal to budget-conscious shoppers, she said.

Giant Eagle supermarkets are designed to appeal to middle-of-the-road shoppers, and Market District stores are for those who want premium products, including organic, local, imported and gluten-free foods, she said.

As a result, Market District stores have highly expanded produce, meat, deli, bakery and bulk-food sections, compared with Giant Eagle stores.

"We've doubled the organic produce varieties" since adopting the Market District format, said Dublin store manager Jason Humphrey. "This is one of those one-stop-shop produce departments where you can get the best of traditional produce and organics."

The Market District format also "makes a big push on service," Destrempe said. "It's a format based on making the whole shopping trip an experience."

Playing that out, the new Market District store offers a station called the Sizzling Wok, an in-store stir-fry section allowing customers to choose fruits, vegetables, proteins and sauces to be prepared by chefs and served over rice.

"This is first in the (central Ohio) market," Ferrier said. "This is not at Kingsdale."

The Sizzling Wok also serves bowls of pho, Vietnamese beef soup, along with pad Thai and curried chicken. Around the corner is a 16-seat sushi bar, and beyond that, stations for custom-made submarine sandwiches, pizza and beer.

The store offers events, such as wine and beer tastings, as well as in-store cooking demonstrations. On a recent day, a chef prepared bananas foster french toast on the store's cooking platform.

Giant Eagle chose Dublin for its second Market District location in Ohio - there are four in Pennsylvania - because that was the place from which the original Giant Eagle store drew the most shoppers, Ferrier said.

"The great news is we've learned a lot from Kingsdale, and we've applied it here, and continue to apply it elsewhere," he said.

Grand-opening activities today include TV's "Cake Boss," Buddy Valastro, giving away 500 of his frozen Cake Boss cakes.