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J&J Foods Transforms Dahlonega, Ga., Store Into Cost-Plus Format


by Kristen Cloud/staff writer

J&J Foods, based in Gainesville, Ga., has kicked off 2013 with a new banner.

Fresh N Frugal sign
Fresh n’ Frugal explains its cost-plus pricing via signs as well as through a greeter at the entrance.

On Dec. 3, the three-store operator opened Fresh n’ Frugal in Dahlonega after converting its former J&J store into the cost-plus format—which uses the store’s at-cost price as the shelf price and adds 10 percent on the customer’s total order at the register. The renovated 22,000-s.f. store, whose remodel began in July, features expanded fresh departments as well as a colorful mural depicting the North Georgia city’s historic Gold Rush past.

“What we focused on in Fresh n’ Frugal is wanting to increase and improve the fresh markets as opposed to where some of the cost-plus stores we’ve seen focus on the grocery side, or the dry grocery side,” Darrell Wiley, president and CEO of J&J Foods, tells The Shelby Report. “And the other thing is we wanted to make the store fun. We relaxed our dress code from what we’d had at the J&J Foods store; we want it to be fun for our customers to shop. …To describe the concept, we’d love to be the Southwest Airlines of the grocery industry. We’d like to have a great place to work and a great place to do business.

“It’s even a fun name, and Fruggie the frog, using the alliteration of Fresh n’ Frugal and tying it to the frog…we’ve got some fun things coming for the frog later on in our marketing.”

Both freshness and fun shine through in the store’s produce department, where new lighting makes the quality of the fruits and vegetables “pop” and where a gold mining mural highlights Fresh n’ Frugal’s commitment to the local community.

Fresh N Frugal Mural
The new mural is an aspect of the remodeled store that Darrell Wiley,president and CEO of J&J Foods and Fresh n’ Frugal, is particularly proud of—as it depicts Dahlonega’s rich history.

“Before the Gold Rush of 1849 in California, there was the Gold Rush of 1829 in Lumpkin County, Ga.,” Wiley says. “This town is still proud of that heritage of the gold mining time and there’s a gold mining museum here and some other opportunities for visitors of this county to experience gold mining. We wanted to tie our store to the heritage of the county by using the murals on the wall, so we had our wholesaler, AWG, and their DSG group (Design & Décor Source Group) come in, and they…found some pictures of those days of the Gold Rush in 1829 and used those to do drawings and created a mural for our walls.”

With two J&J Foods in nearby Gainesville, Wiley reveals he and his team chose to convert the Dahlonega store to the Fresh n’ Frugal banner—because it “is the one closest to the big-box retailer.”

“We think if we can be successful here against the big-box retailer, and co-exist with them, we can be successful anywhere,” he says.

Fresh n’ Frugal and a Walmart Supercenter are the only grocery providers in Dahlonega, which is located about 70 miles north of Atlanta.

Darrell Wiley George Herb
Darrell Wiley, right, with Fresh n’ Frugal Store Manager George Herb.

“That was key to us in making the decision to change from a traditional supermarket to the cost-plus format,” Wiley says. “I believe there’s room in Dahlonega, Ga., for our type of supermarket as well as the big-box store that’s already here. I think we’ve got to do what works for us, and this is what we believe will work.”

Wiley points out that while the Fresh n’ Frugal banner is serving as an experimental “laboratory” of sorts, his company would “love to expand the concept.”

“We want to make sure we can make this work and get the blend the way it needs to be in terms of the balance between perishable departments and the grocery department,” he says, noting that, though the cost-plus format is an established one, it is new for Dahlonega and the surrounding area.

Wiley also says that he wants customers to understand how a cost-plus store works. One way Fresh n’ Frugal is doing that is through a greeter near the store’s entrance.

“We want (the customers) to know how it works,” Wiley says.

Store Manager George Herb agrees, telling The Shelby Report that some customers, eager to take advantage of the low prices, buy several of the same items before realizing it’s not a “here today, gone tomorrow” type sale but rather an “everyday price.”

Customer response, according to Wiley, has been positive.

“A word that’s used often in business these days is ‘transparency.’ In business, in government—you talk about transparency; and I don’t know how much more transparent you can be than to show your customers your cost on the shelf and ask them to pay a percentage over that to cover the overhead.”

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