In 1939, Joe Albertson opened a 10,000 square foot grocery store in Boise at 16th St. and State St. with about 30 employees and $12,000 in his own cash and investment. The store was packed with then-novel features, like a magazine rack, fresh flowers and an ice cream bar.
Now, nearly 80 years later, the retailer is opening its latest store - a grocery showplace Albertson likely wouldn't be able to fathom all those decades ago. It is nearly seven times as large as that first store, and employs 260 people and cost more than $7.2 million to build.
The store at 1219 S. Broadway Ave. replaces a smaller market torn down on the same block earlier this year - and is the last Idaho store the chain owns to be remodeled or replaced in the last few years.
"Joe was an innovator," Albertsons Division President John Colgrove, who worked with the company founder said. "Things like bringing a magazine rack, the household goods… it was all innovative in his time. I think if Joe saw this store today, he’d say two words: 'well done.'"
The store echoes some of those themes from eight decades ago - and in fact, will open on the 79th anniversary of the first store opening - this Saturday at 10am.
Unlike a normal store
The location is striking in the variety of items that are not typically found in an Albertsons - or most grocers for that matter.
During a tour Thursday morning for BoiseDev - dozens of employees were working on final touches ahead of this weekend's opening events.
The beer and wine selection are among the largest in Idaho, according to Colgrove - including one whole rack features just rosé wines. A case of rare wines is also featured, with price points up over $700.
This location is similar in shape and position to a nearby Whole Foods at Broadway and Myrtle, but Colgrove said his store stands apart.
"Of course we will have the full assortment of natural and organic offerings. We also a full line of mainstream national items as well as countless local items. We’ve canvassed the entire community. There's literally hundreds and hundreds of items that are only in this store."
Albertsons Broadway features more local products than the average store in the chain - and Colgrove says his team worked to source items that aren't usually available at retail from across Idaho.
“They went down to the Saturday morning market and met a lot of the individuals down there that were selling their items. We asked a lot of them if they were interested in coming into the stores."
Local items include Bucksnort Root Beer, MFT sauces, Teton Valley Brands Idaho Real Potato Chips and others.
Eating options: in-store, on-the-go, cook at home
Albertsons Broadway features a large array of options for food. It will be the first Idaho store to feature Plated meal kits, which Albertsons acquired last year. The kits allow shoppers to grab a meal kit with nearly all the ingredients they need to cook at home.
The store also has a selection of meals ready to heat and eat at home.
But a unique focus is the number of options for people who want to chow down on site. An upstairs seating area with TVs, a full liquor bar and outdoor patio will give shoppers more of a restaurant experience - complete with table service.
If a proposal for a baseball park to be built by Boise State comes to fruition, it will be viewable from the deck.
That bar - called Broadway on the Rocks - is designed for the neighborhood to grab a bite and stay a while.
"It's clean and modern, a beautiful space to hang out," Albertsons Communications and Community Relations Manager Kathy Holland said. "We are hoping this will invite people to have a drink with friends, or have dinner or grab a bite and have coffee right here in the store. It really is a gathering space in the community."
A newly-hired concierge will provide a way for customers to have one contact and tie together all the various options in the store for parties and gatherings.
"We schedule a consultation with them and figure out every aspect of their party," concierge manager Jordan Saenz said. "From catering, floral, bakery, beer and wine. We figure out every department that can be of assistance to them.”
Saenz says the service will first be marketed to local businesses for meetings and functions.
"For catered lunches, box lunches, salads - community members not wanting to cook for a backyard BQ, party or a wedding. Eventually, we will do a lot of weddings and wedding receptions.”
The company chose this site for a showcase store for a variety of reasons, according to Colgrove.
“The store (that was here) has been here since 1959," he said. "Although it served the community for several years, the footprint was too small to keep up with the expanded categories and expanded offerings consumers have come to expect.
He said the investment in naming rights to nearby Albertsons Stadium and the partnership with Boise State also played a part.
"Its location next to Boise State and Albertsons stadium - we felt this was the right place for it."
For a time, the company had planned to call the location Market Street Idaho - but changed course before opening.
"It really came down to hearing a lot of stories from the customers of the old store here," Holland said. "They had shopped here for 60 years and remembered meeting Joe. We really wanted to keep that spirit alive so we decided to rebound this store as Albertsons but make it more distinct to this neighborhood."
Colgrove and Holland said the store will likely draw from all over Boise, but they expect most customers to make most of their visits to the location nearest them - with Broadway and the forthcoming Market Street Idaho location in Meridian serving as destination stores for many.
Organic a big component
Organic produce and products have been a big consumer trend in recent years, and Albertsons Companies has rolled out an extensive O Organics brand to match. The new Broadway location will feature an "organic department to rival any store in the state," according to Colgrove. He highlights not just food products, but an extensive health and beauty section rooted in organic products and principles.
"In our Living Well area, we really focused on organic and clean products," Holland said.
During the Thursday tour, Holland and Colgrove were excited to tout dozens of features they highlighted as unique. A sampling:
- Poke bowls made in store.
- A made-to-order brick oven pizza station. Customers will be able to pick their toppings and be served a hot pizza in about seven minutes.
- A scratch-made bakery featuring warming cases and large donut selection. In many stores, Colgove said, the bakery products are par-baked - with prep done offsite, and a final heating in the store.
- A carving station that will allow meats like chicken, beef and cold cuts to be custom sliced.
- An extensive cheese section, including products made in the building.
- An in-house chocolatier team, with an extensive selection of handmade chocolates.
- A gelato bar with fresh-served and scooped ice cream.
- A selection of handheld mochie ice creams.
- Global flavors aisle with spices and products from different culinary styles including Basque, Hispanic, Italian and more.
- Butcher block, featuring the ability to cook some items like salmon in-store while customers wait.
- Unique meat selection, including wild boar, elk, buffalo and goat.
- In-store dietician who can help customers with dietary needs. The service is available standalone and to those referred by a doctor.
- A Boise State Broncos fan shop, with apparel items.
- Home decor items and housewares.
Albertsons Broadway opens to the public Friday, July 20th for a soft opening.
A grand opening celebration is set for Saturday, with prizes, food, happy hour pricing and more all day from 10am-9pm.
Regular store hours will be 7am-11pm - but during Boise State games and other functions, the bar area could stay open late.
Colgrove is excited to open to the public.
"I’m overwhelmed and excited about our fresh foods offerings - in particular our service deli that is innovative, clean ingredients with something for all," he said. "Joe's philosophy of innovation continues."