retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

One of my favorite people in the food business, Lisa Sedlar, has just recently opened her second Green Zebra store, in Portland's Lloyd District ... and I think it is a winner.

Green Zebra tends to be described as "Whole Foods meets 7Eleven," but this new store highlights the degree to which this is an overly facile characterization. While it may be roughly the size of a large convenience store, and may have a strong emphasis on organic, healthy and local products, Green Zebra in fact seems to go beyond the boundaries of what definition would imply.

When I visited the new Green Zebra - which opened its first store in North Portland in 2013 - I was impressed with the enthusiastic crowds lining up to place lunch orders. Only open a few months now, it seems to have been embraced by a still-developing neighborhood of apartments and businesses (though Sedlar concedes that so far, weekdays tend to be a lot busier than weekends). There's also a strong breakfast and dinner business - all driven by the fact that the food looks and tastes great.

While organic products and sustainability clearly are a high priority for Green Zebra, there are no concessions to the notion of taste - this is a store designed for Portland foodies. (Note: I had one of the best tuna melts of my life there, spiced with jalapeños and served on thick and delicious artisan bread. In fact, my mouth waters just thinking about it.)

There also is a strong focus on pricing discipline. In the wine department for example, there is a commitment not to carry wines that cost more than $20 per bottle - even though this means that there are more wines from outside Oregon than one might expect, Green Zebra feels strongly that it must not be identified as a high-priced experience. I think it is pretty successful in this effort.

The grocery selection is tightly edited, with every inch calculated to provide sufficient margin; when you're operating an 8,000 square foot store, there isn't a lot of room for error.

The produce department is outstanding, with fruits and vegetables from local farms and a commitment to sampling that stimulates the eye and palate.

There's also a small bar offering beer and wine by the glass ... including a machine that allows Green Zebra to offer "crowlers" - which essentially are beer growlers made out of large aluminum cans. (To see how they work, click on the video box.) I'm told that Green Zebra at this point may be the only supermarket in the world with such a machine, and it provides both entertainment value and a quality product.

To see more of the Green Zebra experience, check out the photos included with this story. But know this ... I'm extremely excited that the next Green Zebra is scheduled to open before the end of the year on the campus of Portland State University - which is where I teach summers, and where I rent an apartment just off campus. Which means that next summer, I know exactly where to go to get a crowler of fresh beer from the tap, affordable wine, and a mean tuna melt.

I can taste them already.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.


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