Talk about a career change

Richard Donckers, who helped bring low-price food to Wal-Mart Supercenters, is now building gourmet food markets, where price takes second place to quality, and customer service is paramount. Donckers opened Market Foods Limited's first store in June 2000 at Pinnacle Point in Rogers, Ark. It serves, in large part, Wal-Mart executives and other businesspeople in the wealthy environs of the retailer's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters.

“The Market, by design, is at the totally opposite end of the food spectrum of retailing from Wal-Mart Supercenters,” says Donckers, who previously worked for Jewel in Chicago and the H-E-B chain in Texas. “Where Wal-Mart is price-driven and has a self-service atmosphere, the Market stores focus on high-end specialty foods and emphasize customer service. The chain is expanding in wealthy areas — where average household incomes start at $100,000.

With another store at the Kingspointe Village in Tulsa, Okla., two more are scheduled to open at General Growth's Jordan Creek in West Des Moines, Iowa, and at RED Development's The Cornerstone at Leawood in Kansas. Donckers says the firm is close to signing leases in Dallas and Montgomery, Ala.

Because it has a prepared-foods section and café, the stores thrive in neighborhoods near office and medical facilities, which provide a big breakfast and lunch crowd as well as a need for take-home prepared dinners. The Market also has a large catering department, which Donckers hopes will represent 20 percent of revenues. It accounts for close to 15 percent in the Rogers store already.

On a recent visit to my 85-year-old mother in Glenview, Ill., we took the 10 minute drive to her favorite new gourmet food store. (She also loves Trader Joe's.) The Market at The Glen Town Center is a 24,500-square-foot stand-alone building on the Oliver McMillan property. The Market itself takes up 14,500 square feet, while the café, which opens for coffee and breakfast at 6 a.m., covers 10,000 square feet.

My mouth was watering over prepared foods like coconut shrimp and focaccio pizzas made to order in a wood-burning oven. I would be hard-pressed to pick from the selection of 220 cheeses and specialty baked goods. And then there are the desserts. Samples included a chocolate bombe and pumpkin cheesecake. Both clearly violated my Atkins diet, but I didn't care. They were superb.

Welcome

Retail Traffic is thrilled to have David Bodamer as managing editor. David joins our magazine after several years of writing for Commercial Property News. Previously he was associate editor at Shopping Centers Today. He just can't get enough of the real estate industry.

Vitals

Location: Glenview, Ill.

Size: 24,500 square feet

Opened: July 2004

Owner: Market Foods Ltd.