Community Planning & Economic Development
November Business Spotlight: Longfellow Market
Top left: Before building renovation; Bottom left: After building renovation; Top right: Inside of market; Bottom right: Owner Joel Ahlstrom.
Longtime grocer and entrepreneur Joel Ahlstrom opened the Longfellow Market at 3815 E Lake Street in April with the goal of becoming the neighborhood’s favorite grocery store. The building was originally constructed as a Chevy Dealership and then used by Peterson Machinery. With very significant renovations, the core structure was converted to a grocery with an old fashioned feel, with aisles lined with warm wooden shelves. Joel and his team then lined those shelves with a conventional product mix along with a smaller selection of organic and natural foods.
After a few months in operation, Joel was puzzled that although the market research he received clearly stated that the neighborhood need was for a conventional grocery; his staff received an increasing number of guest requests for organic and natural products. So, he decided to do his own informal research at community events. Soon, he came to the conclusion that it was time to go against the market study and switch his product mix to organic and natural products with a complementary selection of conventional products instead of the other way around. In August, the Longfellow Market began the official transition and started to add bulk spices, bulk organic grains, organic produce, grass fed meats, and other natural/organic products in addition to their in-house made beef sticks and baked goods. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The full transition is expected to be complete by the end of November, just in time for the holidays.
Energy efficiency for the store is also a core value of Joel’s. Besides preserving as much of the former facility as possible, Joel also invested in a significant amount of energy efficient equipment. The building contains a state of the art heat reclaiming system and a multitude of energy efficient upgrades such as LED lighting in the highly efficient coolers. He was an early user of the City’s new PACE program (Property Assessed Clean Energy) to support financing for energy efficiency improvements to commercial buildings.
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Last updated Nov 18, 2014