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Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy ... coming to you from Gig Harbor, Washington, home of the new Kroger format, Main & Vine.

I'm actually more interested to see Main & Vine these days than I even was when it first opened, in part because it seems like a piece in a larger puzzle that Kroger is assembling. After all, when you think about this store within the context of Kroger's Harris-Teeter and Roundy's/Mariano's acquisitions, and the investment it made last week in Lucky's, and its apparent attempt to buy at least part of The Fresh Market, it would appear that Kroger is assembling weapons on a number of fronts with which it can do battle.

I'll include some pictures of Main & Vine with this story, but let me give you some impressions of this 27,000square foot store, located about a half-hour south of Seattle.

It may share some DNA with Mariano's and Harris Teeter, but in some ways, it reminds me of nothing so much as a New Seasons - it isn't quite as rigorous about the healthy food side of the business, but it has that laid-back, sustainability-focused, fresh-is-best vibe going for it. And the customers seem to be eating it up. (And don't forget that New Seasons is marching north from Portland, looking for a great presence in Washington State.)

Remember how houses used to have living rooms and dining rooms and family rooms and kitchens, and now they all seem to have great rooms? Well, that's the first thing I thought about when I walked into Main & Vine, it seemed more expansive that I would've expected ... it has a largely open floor plan with a farmers market kind of look. Lots of sampling going on, with employees out on the floor, engaging with customers, offering advice and suggestions and sometimes just a friendly hello. (There were, by the way, lots of customers. Always a good sign.)

At the front end, there's a combination coffee-beer-wine bar, with plenty of seats upstairs and downstairs. There's also an e-commerce component, with delivery an available option. In fact, I can even imagine a scenario not too far in the future in which the Main & Vine format gets smaller, with almost all the sales floor square footage devoted to fresh foods, and packaged goods were behind the scenes, available for click-and-collect or delivery.

There is a big focus on local purveyors, which creates the aura that this isn't part of one of the world's biggest retailers ... and to my thinking, that's the secret sauce at Main & Vine .. and will have to be in any of these new formats in which Kroger is investing. Anybody can open a supermarket if you have enough money and space. But to be different, and to make a difference, more than ever one has to create the sense that you're not painting by the numbers ... that you reflect the community in which you operate. That's not to say big chain stores can't be successful, just that Kroger clearly believes that if it is going to continue to grow, it can't just operate in the middle - it has to work the edges aggressively and ambitiously.

Only time will tell how all these investments play out, and what shape Kroger's evolving puzzle will take. But I can tell you that this is a cool store, and Kroger has the makings of a hit on its hands.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: