AUBURN — Complete with gasoline and diesel pumps, fresh brewed coffee and 3,500 square feet of food other household staples, the new Alltown Fresh off Route 101 offers customers an easy way to gas up and grab the essentials.
But according to Eric Slifka, CEO of parent company Global Partners, Alltown is by no means a convenience store.
“Instead of doing a traditional, what I would call, convenience store format, we really sort of think about our offering as a marketplace,” said Slifka.
The Auburn location, which has been undergoing construction for roughly four months, represents Global Partners’ initiative to convert several of its nearly 1,600 gas stations across the Northeast into one-stop-shops for healthy food.
With a sleek and modern look that boasts a wide assortment of natural, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and locally sourced food, Alltown aims to provide the ease of a convenience store to health- and quality-conscious patrons who may do most of their grocery shopping at a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, Slifka said.
“I wouldn’t say we’re as hardcore (as Whole Foods),” said Slifka. “But certainly what we’re trying to do is make sure that we’re delivering a differentiated product compared to other alternatives in the marketplace.”
The difference from a typical convenience store is clear, with grocery store-style pinwheel shelves stuffed with dried fruit, kale chips, antibiotic free pork rinds and cauliflower puffs greeting shoppers.
While Alltown still carries more traditional snack foods and soda, you’ll find them behind the health food, tucked in the far corner of the store — a layout that senior VP of retail operations Ryan Riggs says is 100 percent intentional.
“We’re making the choice to lead off with our healthy options,” said Riggs during a tour on Alltown’s grand opening Thursday.
“We have more traditional snack foods, but you have to find them. They’re not the first thing you see and that’s by design.”
As for produce, shoppers will find fresh apples, oranges, bananas, pears, lemons and limes, as well as a variety of frozen fruits and vegetables in the coolers.
And for those with an interest in eating local, Alltown Auburn carries wine from Zorvino Vineyards in Sandown, bread from Abigail’s Bakery in Weare and coffee from Baronet Coffee Roasters in Windsor, Conn.
The emphasis on standing out from more traditional competition extends beyond food and beverages alone, with the personal hygiene section carrying eco-conscious brands like Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and Dr. Bronner’s soap, and all of the pet food inside the store bearing the words “grain free” or “organic”.
“We’re trying to market to the guests who are looking for healthy differentiated options,” said Slifka.
But amidst the many health and wellness minded provisions the store has to offer sits a bit of an elephant in the room that Slifka failed to mention during the interview: Burger King taking up about a third of the building’s footprint.
While some Alltown locations will host full service kitchens that serve made to order food like quinoa bowls and smoothies, Riggs said the presence of the burger chain in their Auburn location is the result of a pre-existing contract Global Partners entered into when it first made the decision to remodel the site.
Riggs admits that some customers may see the presence of a fast food restaurant as being in conflict with Alltown’s “Fresh food choices” motto — emblazoned in large block letters on the wall just feet away from the Burger King counter.
But Riggs went on to say that the company hopes the neighboring businesses can benefit from one another.
“We hope that we can bring in people that eat BK and lead them over to our offerings in order to teach them about healthier options,” said Riggs. “Is it what we want to grow into? No. Do we want to use that driver to help us? Absolutely.”