2029 S. Neil St., Champaign, IL 61820
GRAND OPENING October 2016
SIZE 58,000 square feet EMPLOYEES 150
they actually churn and compound their own
butter at Harvest Market—it’s one of the few
grocery stores in America where you’ll find
a “microchurnery” operating in full view of
But to Rich Niemann Jr., the churning is not
the half of it.
“The key isn’t the process of churning butter, it’s the sweet cream that starts that process, which comes from a small family farm
in central Illinois called Kilgus Farmstead.
That’s the story,” says Niemann, president
and CEO of Niemann Foods Inc.
“It’s unique to churn butter, but what we
want to show is: Where does the sweet cream
come from, and what happens to the products
as you churn it?” he says. “The buttermilk
goes into the biscuits we make in the bakery
and serve in the restaurant. That’s how the
circle happens in the store.”
Like the butter, the biscuits and the Farmhouse restaurant that accompanies them,
Harvest Market is a concept made from
scratch by local producers and families. The
store opened two years ago in Champaign,
Ill., as a means of exploring and redefining
what it means to be a food retailer in an era
defined by foodie culture, while also tapping
into the underlying sense of sacrifice, wholesomeness, craft and expertise associated
with the producers and makers behind what
it sells. That’s an emotional connection with
deep roots in Illinois, and it gives Harvest
Market its unique perspective.
pers intuitively understand when they enter.
“This is not a marketing campaign for farm-to-fork,” Niemann says. The product selection reflects decades of relationships with
producers and his own family’s experience
raising cattle, he says. “This is a concept built
around connecting people back to the land.”
“We had an understanding that the business is changing dramatically, and the old
model wasn’t going to take us where the
business was going,” says Niemann, whose
family-run and employee-owned company
operates a variety of concepts in the Midwest,
from hardware and lumber stores to convenience stores, discount stores and conventional supermarkets under the County Market brand. The latter is the closest ascendant
of the new store, but a distant cousin nonetheless, Niemann insists.
Los Angeles-based design and strategy
firm Shook Kelley helped Niemann executives arrive at the concept. Founding partner
and principal Kevin Kelley took cues directly
from the Niemann family, whose cattle herd
now produces meat sold at the store.
“This isn’t County Market 2.0,” he says.
“We didn’t approach this in that way at all.
We didn’t say, ‘How do we change a current
concept like County Market [and make it]
a little better, or even a lot better?’ We said,
‘We’re starting from scratch.’”
“I like to try to find a way to get a leader’s
personal side in the business, because that
way they’ll believe it: They’ll do it in their
sleep. They’ll do it in their free time,” Kelley
says. “Rich was so excited about grocery, but
what really excited him was ranching and
farming and agriculture. His face would light
up, and his body language would show it.”
In that sense, he says, Harvest Market isn’t a
store as much as a mission, and one that shop-
The emotional connection came into
focus when Kelley played a recording of Paul
Harvey’s famous “So God Made a Farmer”
broadcast during a planning meeting, and
Niemann’s executives teared up.