Homeland: The ultimate neighborhood grocery store

Homeland showcases the ultimate neighborhood grocery store with Classen Boulevard remodel

There is a distinctive neighborhood flavor to the newly remodeled Homeland grocery supermarket at Northwest 18th St. and North Classen Blvd. in Oklahoma City. It might be the “Welcome Friends, Locally Owned – Community Proud” sign that greets you as you enter the store.

Or it could be that each aisle features signage that honors an historic Oklahoma City neighborhood such as Uptown, the Plaza District, Deep Deuce and many more.

Built in 1974, the 22,000-square-foot store underwent a $3 million facelift in early 2018 and debuted the new look store in July. The ambitious remodeling effort essentially saved an important landmark grocery store for the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as for nearby downtown Oklahoma City.

“I don’t know if it had been touched since 1974,” said Marc Jones, president and CEO of the employee-owned grocery chain that is headquartered in Oklahoma City. “It was tired, didn’t have everything that we offer in a lot of our other locations. This was not the appropriate store for the neighborhood.”

Today, it clearly is the appropriate store for the neighborhood. And neighbors are shopping there. Sales have almost doubled over pre-remodeled days, Jones said.

On a busy weekday afternoon at the Classen Boulevard store, Jones and Store Manager Dennis Kluding provided a guided tour through the store, pointing out remodeling highlights along the way. Some big-ticket items such as the new heating and air units or the new roof are not apparent to customers.

But others such as bright, inviting signage and more than 1,000 new items greet shoppers as they enter the store.

“Here’s the fresh shopping experience we deliver in a lot of our other locations that we finally bring to downtown,” Jones said as he walked by the deli and in-store bakery areas.

Jones points out other new and enhanced offerings. Cold cuts and fresh cooked hot food at the deli. A full service bakery that can produce a wedding cake or morning pastries. A new juice program, fresh take-out pizza, sushi, expanded meat market, kombucha and more.

“What we did not want to do is take a cookie-cutter approach,” he said. “It really is a unique blend of items that isn’t anywhere else, as well as grocery items that have been very successful in our other stores. It’s what the customers were asking for.”

The new-look Homeland fits the surrounding neighborhoods in that it offers affordable grocery staples for every shopper’s budget as well as high-priced specialty items.

“It was important to us not to make this a fancy boutique store that only really carried the expensive items,” Jones said. “We wanted this to remain a store that customers could shop every single day.”

Although Homeland brought in a professional design firm to manage the redesign, its own employees brainstormed many of the ideas that resulted in the connections to historic neighborhoods across Oklahoma City.

“We had fun coming up with the details,” Jones said. “We wanted a design and a decor for this store and the neighborhoods around it.”

The finished product lets customers know with a large sign above the dairy aisle that proclaims Homeland is “Oklahomans feeding Oklahomans” and that it is employee-owned and locally based.

When the redesign was complete, the Classen Homeland store actually ended up with less retailing space than it had before, but has added more than 1,000 new products to the mix.

“Probably closer to 1,500,” Kluding said of the new items now offered. “It’s growing and I’m not losing anything so far.”

The Classen Boulevard store is one of 30 Homeland branded stores the company operates in Oklahoma. It also operates stores in Texas, Kansas and Georgia, as well as super markets under the United brand. The employee-owned concept of the business is important to Jones and his fellow co-workers.

“We try to build a team and a family,”Kluding said. “Basically we are one unit. We really cater to the employees’ needs as long as we can take care of the customers.”

“I think Dennie put his finger on it,” Jones added. “It’s the team that you are on and everyone is looking for a feeling that what they do makes a difference, and, hopefully, we’ve got a mission to serve our neighborhoods.”

It always comes back to the neighborhood for Jones and the Classen Boulevard Homeland store. Kluding keeps a suggestion box open and maintains a spreadsheet of customer suggestions.

That’s why placards with names like “Pam” are popping up across the store to honor the suggestions.

As Jones and Kluding escorted guests down the Deep Deuce aisle, a shopper from a nearby neighborhood interrupted them to thank Kluding for his quick response to her request.

“I live in the neighborhood, and said ‘hey, you don’t have my coffee, and it would be really nice if you could get it,’ ” she said. “And he’s like, ‘done.’”

Welcome to the ultimate neighborhood Homeland.

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