By Meredith Howard
Quincy-based Niemann Foods, Inc. is rebranding the County Market on West White Oaks Drive in Springfield into the country’s second Harvest Market, a health-oriented grocery store focused on providing farm-to-table options. The first Harvest Market opened in Champaign in 2016, and the Springfield location is expected to open this fall after an extensive renovation of the existing store.
Gerry Kettler, Niemann’s director of consumer affairs, described Harvest Market as “a whole new way to shop for groceries.”
“It very much connects the consumer to the land and to the producers, with a strong emphasis on local, fresh, organic, natural and health. It’s a good mix of healthy and traditional mainstream groceries,” Kettler said.
Kettler said the concept of Harvest Market often reminds people of Whole Foods, but he differentiated between the two.
“That’s not what we are. We let people make the decision if they want to buy Oreos or if they want to buy organic fruit. We’ll have it all, so it’s a little different than just a typical health food store. The main [objective] of it is connecting our consumers to the makers and producers that are preparing their food,” Kettler said.
Harvest Market will also include a bar, a restaurant and a mezzanine. Champaign’s Harvest Market has a delicatessen, which includes a sushi bar, salad bar, chef-prepared meals, a cheese shop and more. Another of Harvest Market’s unique features is the butter churning room, where customers are able to connect with local farmers and learn about the butter making process.
Harvest Market also makes a health and wellness adviser available to the public. Individuals will be able to make appointments, and there is a classroom in the store for larger groups to learn about different diets.
“It’s very much like a community gathering space,” Kettler said.
Kettler said that the Springfield Harvest Market will have a different staff than the former County Market.
“Not everybody that works at the current County Market will stay at this store. Some of them will go to other stores, and we’re having to bring in new talent and also retrain some existing talent,” Kettler said.
Kettler said that the rebranding, which is already underway, is estimated to cost about $16 million. Niemann is using DBS Corporation, which connects corporations with local workers, as its general contractor for this project.
“We’ve worked a lot with the city; the city’s been very helpful,” Kettler said.
Kettler said Niemann chose Springfield as Harvest Market’s second location because Springfield shoppers seem receptive to the concept.
“We feel that the population of Springfield, through our research, is looking for alternatives that provide convenience and also transparency of where their products are coming from, and they want to know how they’re feeding their families. And they want it at a fair price; they still want a nice value,” Kettler said. “It fits this concept very well. We know Springfield, and we know there is a significant investment involved with developing this concept. We’re comfortable with the Springfield market, and we’re looking forward to introducing [Harvest Market] to everybody.”
Niemann Foods currently has five County Market locations in Springfield, including the former Shop ‘n Save property at 1501 S. Dirksen Parkway that Niemann Foods acquired in 2018. Kettler confirmed that the company has also purchased the now-vacant former Shop ‘n Save on Wabash Avenue but would not comment on specific plans for the property.
Niemann Foods also operates County Market stores in Chatham, Sherman, Jacksonville, Girard and Petersburg as well as the Save-A-Lot on Clear Lake Avenue in Springfield.
Meredith Howard interned with Springfield Business Journal last year while she was a student at Lincoln Land Community College. She is currently studying journalism at Baylor University.