In our August newsletter and previously on our blog, we introduced the first of two architectural firms that Chicago Market has chosen to partner with for our store design and build-out. Here, we announce our second partner and our team is complete: Minnesota-based freshArc. Chosen for their expertise in the food industry, freshArc will collaborate with Wrap Architecture, the Site Selection and Architecture team, the board of directors and Owners to create the store of our collective dreams!
John Hatzung, LEED, AP, NCARB, freshArc principal, sat down with Owner #148 and writer Annette Mambuca to round out our two-part story.
Chicago Market: Let’s start with a question that’s no doubt important to our readers. Are you a member of a co-op?
John: You bet. I’m a member of the Linden Hills Co-op in Minneapolis, and I’m proud to serve on the board of directors there.
I’ve always loved the whole idea of co-ops – from food stores to credit unions. It was actually my interest in co-ops and their market growth that led me to open my own firm.
Chicago Market: In fact, it was your design expertise and knowledge about all things food and co-ops that led to the invitation to collaborate on the store layout of Chicago Market. Given that, take us on a quick tour of your career.
John: It started more than 30 years ago, when I was with a design-build firm and a former associate asked me to design restaurants. I really enjoyed the work, mostly because I enjoyed creating spaces for people to gather and enjoy good food.
Eventually the restaurateur stopped building, so I shifted to building energy-efficient homes. From there, I found an opportunity to move back into food, with the architecture department of SuperValu Inc., an industry-leading grocery retailer. I spent 16 years there, designing a variety of food stores, from large and medium-sized chains to mom-and-pop stores. I learned a lot about the food business and its complexities. And it was there that I began to be drawn to the idea that the best food stores are the ones where people truly come together to interact with the products and one another.
I left SuperValu to join a firm that specialized in food processing plants and food distribution, where I learned even more about the food system and how all the component inter-relate.
Chicago Market: What specifically led you to open your own firm?
John: freshArc grew out of conversation with P.J. Hoffman, who is now the Business Development Director at the National Co-op Grocers Association. We were both concerned about the competition food co-ops face from sophisticated natural foods retailers. My partner, Paul Hannemann, and I wanted to bring the advantages and efficiencies of successful chains to non-traditional markets so they could be more competitive.
Chicago Market: Given all your store-design experience, what distinguishes your approach to a chain grocery store versus a co-op like Chicago Market?
John: Food stores are one of the most complex building types given their multiple infrastructures, including retail, customer experience, food storage, preparation and safety, energy requirements and regulation.
So the essential difference is that the design of a big-box or chain grocery is pre-determined and imposed on the site, and it reflects the goals of the corporation. The design of a co-op, on the other hand, grows out of the site, and it reflects the values of its community.
To design a co-op, you really need to understand what drives the people who will use it. The process is all about listening and discovering exactly what that is.
Chicago Market: Your approach is in keeping with the philosophy of your partners on this project, Cheryl and Ravi from Wrap Architecture.
John: We’re looking forward to collaborating with them, particularly because the site will probably be an existing building. One of the things I love about Wrap is that they recognize, celebrate and bring out the history of the existing building site in their designs.
Chicago Market: How will freshArc contribute to the layout and design of Chicago Market?
John: Basically, we’ll be involved in two ways. First, we’ll help create the basic layout for the store, which is called the fixture plan. It determines where the different departments will be, how the store is oriented, where the checkout is, the flow of traffic, etc. Also on the back-end, how food is received, stored and processed before it goes to the customer-facing part of the store.
Second, we will act as advisors to Cheryl and Ravi, helping them understand the different infrastructure systems that run through the building, regulations and codes as related to food, and the innumerable details of such a specialized building.
Chicago Market: Like Wrap Architecture, freshArc has a deep devotion to sustainable building and energy-efficient design. What’s most interesting to you in this regard?
John: I’m fanatic about lighting. I think LED lights are one of the greatest invention of our time. They have such a huge impact on energy use and climate change in our country. One of things that will be happening is that the cost of wiring buildings will be significantly reduced.
I also believe natural light is one of the most important things about any building, but particularly food stores. You have to know how to work with it, and I want to use it as much as possible for Chicago Market. Natural light will help make people happy to be there – and I’m not just talking about shoppers. It’s also essential for employees; natural light helps them enjoy their jobs and do them better.
Chicago Market: Given your long history designing food stores, what is most important to you in terms of the customer experience?
John: If my experience has taught me anything it’s that the food industry is constantly changing. So part of a good customer experience is ensuring that the store design is adaptable, allowing for change and evolution over time.
But in the end, it all comes down to people. I want to help create a Chicago Market that gives everyone an opportunity for the greatest interaction, and brings delight about the food and other items that are available.