Does the 99 percent need more organic produce?
Lucky’s Market, the Colorado-based grocery chain that is opening Wednesday in Lexington, thinks so and is hoping to carve a niche into an already crowded grocery field.
Lexington has a whole cartful of places — Good Foods Co-op, Kroger, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Wal-Mart, Meijer and the local farmers markets, among others — that offer organic, natural and specialty foods. What will differentiate Lucky’s?
The prices for one thing, said store manager Toby Truitt. Lucky’s tries to undercut pricey places like Whole Foods, hence the “organic for the 99 percent” slogan.
“Prices are our big thing,” he said. “We are price-competitive with the big boys.”
Truitt acknowledged that there are lots of players in the natural foods market these days, but he said Lucky’s strategy is a little different.
Lucky’s has a “very aggressive private-label program,” he said. “It’s very high quality.”
And instead of primarily prepared, packaged products, Lucky’s focuses on ingredients, things that might be used in cooking, such as olive oil, balsamic vinegar and stir-fry sauces.
The chain follows a kind of Food Network ethos, Truitt said, with a goal to demystify good food.
Another way Lucky’s Market hopes to distinguish itself is with the shopping experience.
The store also has a wine and beer license, so it can serve you a drink in the café, or you can put it in a special cupholder on the cart while you shop.
“We call that sip and stroll,” Truitt said.
The Lexington store will also have an adjacent liquor store, with a wall of local and regional craft beer, a wall of bourbon, and a strong wine program, Truitt said.
Lucky’s also has a strong lineup of prepared foods, both to eat in the store’s café and to take home, including three kinds of house-cured and smoked bacon (traditional, pepper and honey orange), soups, salads, sandwiches with house-made cold-cuts, and pizza by the slice.
Lucky’s location at 1030 South Broadway near the University of Kentucky campus and medical center gives it a natural base, particularly for prepared food, and Truitt said the store hopes to partner with the university as well as with local nonprofit groups.
For the store opening Wednesday, Lucky’s is donating a collective $11,500 to two nonprofit organizations: Greenhouse 17, a shelter for victims of intimate partner abuse; and Food Chain, which provides education and hands-on training in indoor sustainable food production and processing.
And, through April 1, every time shoppers bring reusable bags they will get a 10-cent token to credit to Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition, Seedleaf, or Arbor Youth Services.
On its website, the privately held Lucky’s says the chain makes a point of participating in a variety of nonprofit community projects. Employees also are paid for up to 32 hours of volunteer work each year, Truitt said.
“This is an extremely innovative place to work,” he said. “It has a great family vibe.”
It also has an aggressive expansion planned, fueled in part by foreign investors in addition to founders Bo and Trish Sharon. Truitt said Lucky’s hopes to be nearing 30 stores by the end of the year, with many in Florida.
Lexington’s store, the second in Kentucky — there’s one in Louisville — will be the 16th, so Lucky’s is looking to double its footprint this year.
The store will officially open at 10 a.m., with the ceremonial bacon cutting. And, yes, there will be samples.
That honey orange, Truitt said, “is meat candy.”