As I write this, we are past the halfway point of our Iowa City and Coralville store remodels. We are making great progress and new things are landing in place. I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to you, our owners and shoppers, for navigating the stores as we remodel and to our resilient staff for working through the ongoing disruption inherent to a project. This work reflects significant reinvestment in the future of our stores, and is the largest effort in decades.
As we continue to look to the future, one message continues to circle in my conversations with staff and owners:
“We can keep New Pi operations unchanged or we can evolve to maintain a thriving food co-op here for our children and their families, but we probably can’t have both.” As a small independent, community-owned grocer, our principles must never change, but today’s retail stores cannot succeed in 2019 and beyond on outdated operations.
The hard truth is that we are affected by an external environment that we do not control. Sales at New Pi have declined as larger stores like Hy-Vee, Aldi and Trader Joe’s have expanded. This negatively impacts our ability to support some retail programs as well as community outreach activities. It is important more now than ever that we continue to act with intention and make choices that allow us to adapt, just as New Pi has done since 1971.
One of the more dramatic changes you’ll find in both stores are beautiful new hot and salad bars. These are now open daily in both stores.
An expanded seating area will be coming soon to Coralville, and a small seating area to Iowa City for the first time in decades. You will also see that we have brightened the store interiors with much-needed paint, and we are making progress with improving lighting with new and more energy efficient fixtures.
In our Meat and Seafood department, we have expanded our self-service cases in both stores. This will allow us to offer a wider range of products throughout the hours of store operation. As part of the deli expansion in Iowa City, we removed the full service meat and seafood. While we know many of you loved the daily interactions with our Iowa City Meat cutters, please know they are still here doing the same great work, simply out of a centralized location in our Coralville store. Centralizing our meat production in the Coralville store has allowed us to improve the work environment for our cutters as well as providing better coverage and training options for our team. More significantly, this now positions New Pioneer to partner with the Sobaski family to increase the quantity of farmer-direct whole hogs that we can process. This type of partnership is the kind of needed investment in community-based foods systems that only New Pi can fulfill.
You’ll also notice we have changed some of our meat packaging. While it’s true we have increased our plastic use in meat, we expect it will also create a significant reduction in food waste, and ultimately, a smaller carbon footprint. Most of the carbon footprint of food sourcing comes from producing (83%) and transporting it (11%). Simply stated, the less wasted product, the greater the impact. We are also sourcing new compostable trays. This will further reduce the carbon footprint of our meat and seafood offerings.
We are also quietly but steadily making progress on e-commerce, which will allow you the option to place your order online and arrange to pick up at any of our stores. Stay tuned for more on that later this summer.
We look forward to seeing you in stores and are excited for what’s to come!
Onward, Matt Hartz