|GHQ| RETAIL SPOTLIGHT
an island o; its terminus.
;e trolleys and amusement park are long
gone, but the town retains its quaintness. To this
day a bull horn still goes o; at 9 p.m. to remind
residents of a long ago curfew. A half-mile stretch
of Water Street running from the lake serves as
the downtown, lined with antique shops, boutiques, restaurants, candy stores, a movie theater,
old-fashioned pet shop, trolley museum—and
now Kowalski’s. Sporting brick walls and multi-paned factory style windows, the store easily ;ts
into Water Street’s eclectic architectural mix,
and serves as downtown’s southern anchor.
Its site was originally home to a Red Owl
supermarket, the only supermarket in town.
When it closed in the early 1980s, the building
became the Mason Motors Chrysler dealership.
Mason closed a few years ago and the building
sat empty until developers approached Kowalski’s about opening a store.
“We ended up using just the west wall of the
building, which is up against our produce and
deli departments because there is a small [pre-existing] strip mall on the other side,” says Mike
Oase, vice president of operations at Kowalski’s
Markets, based in Woodbury, Minn. “
Originally we were going to leave the roof and three
walls and build out this way (eastward), but
when we got into it we saw the roof was pretty
aged. It was structurally sound but would not
be able to support the weight of our equipment.”
Kris Kowalski Christiansen, COO, notes that
this is the ;rst new store Kowalski’s has opened
since 2008, its farthest west and, at 18,000
square feet, its smallest—outside of a 12,000
square-foot unique neighborhood store acquired years ago as part of a group acquisition.
“We were still tasked with providing every-
thing you can get at our other stores,” she says.
“We had lots of meetings to ;gure out how to do
that. We wanted this to be a full shop experience
because this neighborhood was clamoring for a
grocery store. ;ey were so excited to get one
back, and we wanted to deliver that to them.”
;at was largely accomplished by cutting
down on facings and SKU counts in center store.
“I know there are a lot of other smaller stores
doing that, but this was our ;rst shot at it, and
we still wanted to maintain that nice variety
that people are used to in our stores,” Kowalski
Christiansen says. “We have to get the main-
stream, so we have Cheerios, but we also want
a specialty and natural/organic product in the
is nine inches lower than in our other stores.
We wanted to go lower to give the store a nice,
open feel, but we didn’t lose any variety be-
cause there was dead space there.”
“You also get a better sightline,” says Mary
Anne Kowalski, owner and Kris’ mom. “One of
the comments we hear all the time from people
is, ‘Wow! ;ere is no ;uorescent lighting. It is
comfortable, calming, quiet, pretty, and that’s
the idea. Plus, you can buy all this good stu; too.”
Stepping through the front door, her words
become obvious. Shoppers are greeted with an
elaborate and eclectic gi; department, albeit an
extremely tailored selection compared to Kowal-
ski’s other stores.
“We have gi; departments in all of our
stores,” says Kowalski. “We’ve had them since
back when my husband Jim and I decided that
we couldn’t compete on a conventional level
and that we would have to go upscale.”
It neighbors the ;oral department, which
Kowalski says “is always a big draw for us.”
To the right is a huge island case over;owing
with cheeses as close as neighboring Wisconsin
and far away as New Zealand.
“We have an extensive department of imported cheese,” says Kowalski Christiansen. “;at
has been part of our brand for a long time, but
we really extended it here.” She adds that the
cheese director regularly travels the world look-