Owner looks beyond second Kingma’s
Hartline says growth relies on offering an experience, not just expansion.
A changing consumer profile is driving the expansion of locally focused Kingma’s Market.
Alan Hartline took ownership of Kingma’s in 2014 and helped reinvigorate the building it’s occupied since 1994 at 2225 Plainfield Ave. NE. He has decided to open a second store as part of the Ada Village redevelopment on the southeast corner of Fulton Street and Ada Drive SE.
Hartline said Kingma’s strong brand in the community on the northeast side of Grand Rapids will translate to the Ada community — and possibly beyond, should the local-first, limited product selection work in a second location.
The market’s previous owners, third-generation Kingmas, were comfortable with the single location and its revenue, but Hartline’s plan since he purchased the company was to expand, using his experience as a former SpartanNash Co. vice president of merchandising.
“They inherited the business and worked hard and did well, but I don’t think they saw a vision for growth and were somewhat risk averse,” Hartline said.
Buying the company was a risky move for Hartline, but his eyes on expansion are largely based in consumer changes he’s watched throughout his career.
“Today, (consumers) want an experience. They have time and want to come on Saturday and find dinner, want something fresh and different and (to) be inspired,” he said. “They want it in an intimate experience and have a sense of pride with Michigan, Grand Rapids and supporting local and not national chains, and I’m delivering on those at the right time.”
The delivery of new experiences started with the Plainfield Avenue store as he upgraded the produce department with new fixtures and delivered products six days a week.
“I was tired of watching customers go back to the great meat department we have and walk right by the produce,” he said. “Deservedly so if you only get a couple-day-a-week deliveries and display on old fixtures. It wasn’t very sexy.
“Now, with the revamping and investing in procurement, we have a great produce department that can be a destination, just like the meat.”
As a resident of Ada, in the past several years Hartline took special interest in plans in the suburb. He saw that a grocery store was the top-requested amenity residents wanted in the new village.
He said if the Ada store proves successful, he could see another two to four Kingma locations in West Michigan.
Discussions that began six months ago with leaders in Ada came to fruition when the 13,000-square-foot location was announced this month.
“It was a no-brainer to fill that need, and to be a part of that development and anchor it is exciting,” Hartline said. “It’s a great demographic area to merchandize the fun stuff we have.”
Ada residents and staff at the nearby Amway headquarters will give the store a great base of customers, Hartline said. The store will include a butcher shop, which the current Kingma’s has grown its name on, but will expand it with seafood, including an oyster and sushi bar with bistro-style seating. The new store will be approximately 30 percent larger than the Plainfield store, so there’s more room to expand its offerings.
Hartline said there also will be a coffee shop or juice bar outlet — local, not a Starbucks — at the entrance of the store, to either start the shopping experience with a positive purchase or be a stop on the way to work for Amway employees.
As part of the first phase of Ada Village, Kingma’s will hire 25-30 employees for the new location.
“Kingma’s Market is a perfect fit for our community,” Ada Township Supervisor George Haga said. “The market is a critically needed component to the redevelopment of our township and will serve as an anchor to the Ada expansion project in the future.”
With stores such as Trader Joe’s and Fresh Thyme Farmers Market entering the Grand Rapids area and SpartanNash stores moving toward more specialty selections, Hartline said Kingma’s is a natural fit.
Whether a millennial or a baby boomer, Hartline said the average shopper is no longer planning meals for the week but shopping on a more frequent basis with a tendency to buy products with a healthy or local focus.
“It’s scalable, particularly in this marketplace,” Hartline said. “With the hyper-local focus on Michigan products, it can be a bit limiting to stay true to who we are, but it’s absolutely my goal to fill in where the community would embrace it.”