The New Hope Hy-Vee grocery store gained approval at the July 22 New Hope City Council meeting to build a three-lane kiosk for its online order customers. Hy-Vee Real Estate Director Phil Hoyt said the business chose the New Hope location to test the concept for the Twin Cities.
“This is the community where it kind of all started for Hy-Vee in the Twin Cities, and it will also be first in the Twin Cities for this [concept] as well,” Hoyt said. The concept recently began testing in Iowa, where the business is headquartered.
The drive-thru kiosks will be situated in the employee lot adjacent to Xylon Avenue, between the store and New Hope City Hall. Hoyt estimated that 20-30 parking stalls would be removed to accommodate the 960 square foot system. Pick-up customers will drive from the southern portion of the property and be directed to the three lanes that will project laterally from the store under an awning, similar to a bank drive-thru. After an employee loads the order into a customer’s vehicle, the customer will be directed to continue forward and exit on the northern side of the property.
A public hearing was held when the concept went before the planning commission last month. A concern voiced at the time was over accessibility issues, as Community Development Director Jeff Sargent said the area was used by some as a “main thoroughfare” to get into the store. Changes to it, especially during kiosk construction when the entrance will not be usable, could cause a hindrance, Sargent said.
Upon questioning from Council Member Jonathon London on the loss of parking, Hoyt argued that a loss of the side lot could potentially relieve use of the front stalls. He reasoned that those who are currently driving to the store to claim their online orders take up front spaces that would be better served by those who are planning on spending more time at the store. Hy-Vee was constructed under the agreement that at least 565 stalls be constructed, and that requirement is still met with the removal of the side lot.
London also asked if the concept was too extreme compared to what competitors were already doing.
“Most stores don’t have three lanes,” London said. “They have a couple car posts at Target, and these other guys that are ahead of you in this game.”
The concept is a little different from competitors. Those that use the online pickup service, called Aisles Online, are able to add grocery items, including fresh produce and frozen items, as well as household and health/beauty products. The items are not pulled off shelves in store; instead, they are gathered from a separate facility and transported to the location nearest the customer.
Hoyt said with products off-site, online customers will have more options than what is in store but still not interfere with the traditional shopping experience.
“You won’t be competing with our store employees, shopping for online orders throughout the store,” he said.
Pharmacy amenities, which are nearby the proposed site, will remain. Employees who parked in the outgoing lot will be told to park closer to the gas station.
Mayor Kathi Hemken said she believed the proposal would be less dangerous than the pickup system that exists on the property now. Council Member Andy Hoffe agreed, complimenting the three-lane system to prevent a line of cars from “stacking up.”
“If it means less people in the aisles, I’m all for it,” said Council Member John Elder, who said he shopped at the store weekly. He asked that signs be “very clear” so drivers entering the parking lot can understand how to maneuver the lot during construction.
Hoyt said the business plans for kiosks to be a “growing part of our offering.”
“We want this to be in all of our stores,” Hoyt said.