Deli is spotlighted in Wolferman's return to retailing.
In the 1970's, the company temporarily withdrew from the operation of a retail unit. But it continued to operate a bakery that has made the Wolferman's name famous nationwide for its "Original English Muffins." Mimi Sheraton, food critic for The New York Times, once called these the best of all English muffins available in the U.S.
The new store, opened in late 1983, is a study in creamy white with bright accents of highly polished brass, antique reminders of former Wolferman's stores, potted trees and other greenery and a striking black-and-white patterned floor. The former theatre's auditorium provides a two-story open interior that supplies a feeling of airiness to a relatively compact selling area. The result is a chic, subtle setting perfectly in tune with the area's upper income demographics and with the high style of Kansas City's posh Country Club Plaza located nearby.
The spotlight in this latest Wolferman's is on, as their slogan says, "Good Things to Eat," and that includes the best of grocery, meat, produce, bakery, and last but far from least, deli products. Deli in fact is a featured attraction along the left perimeter immediately accessible to all entering customers. Its approximately 45 feet of display cases offer a constantly changing variety of salads, hot fluids, meals and cheeses.
Because of limited space for the display of hot foods, a different menu is offered daily--usually including at least three entrees and one hot soup. Each day's "Foods-to-Go" are announced with hand-lettered copy on a framed menu board located on a wall near the four-foot hot foods display case.
Ready-made sandwiches are also merchandised with the best sellers including REuben ($3.95), Hoagies ($4.25) and a very popular special Wolferman's croissant sandwich ($2.75. A daily luncheon special that includes a meat or cheese sandwich and salad is offered for $3.50. The store's take-out foods business is brisk in spite of the presence of an informal eating alcove called "The Corner" and a small elegant balcony restaurant - the latter a nostalgic nod to a mezzanine restaurant encircling the selling area of Wolferman's classic downtown store that became a victim of Kansas City's extensive urban renewal project.
A 12-foot service case and an adjacent 6-foot self-service unit display a variety of imported and domestic cheese. Robin Copas, buyer for the deli operation, reports that American cheddar, baby Swiss and bries are among the fastest movers. To help stimulate buying interest, educate the customer and introduce new items, an adjoining counter top area is used for display and sampling. Rounds of the featured cheese are often artistically arranged on the counter together with prepackaged cuts and samples to encourage purchases.
Copas reports that sampling is such an important aspect of their merchandising philosophy that a special island counter, located near the deli, was created for regularly scheduled demos--often offering preparation suggestions for cheese such as baked brie. This focal point for merchandising also is the center of other attention-getting activities: Customers can watch the construction of the Wolferman's gift baskets that have become a store trademark or be entertained by live music. During the Christmas period, a piano was moved into the area for the performance of seasonal music.
All deli meats are displayed in bulk with none presliced. The choice of salads is frequently augmented to sustain shopper interest. Copas indicates that they have had especially good buying reaction to the department's pasta salads.
The deli's large bulk coffee department, which has become a real money-maker, is presented in an island arrangement with 30 varieties displayed in original burlap shipping bags. This merchandising approach provides the presentation with a fascinatingly exotic appearance and is a center of attraction for shoppers. "Turnover is so fast, we have n problem with the open display of coffee beans," says Capos. "We receive weekly shipments from avery good supplier in the East." Among the different coffees sold is a Wolferman's custom blend. To help stimulate sales, Wolferman's gives customers a Coffee Club card that records their coffee purchases. After buying 12 pounds, the customer is given a pound free. At center of display related item purchases are encouraged with an arrangement of coffee makers, mugs and other accessories.
Wolferman's weekly advertising in the local newspaper always includes deli items. Except for an earlier closing on Saturdays, the store is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. A break with tradition came recently with the store's opening on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. But one tradition has survived Wolferman's 95 years and appears destined to remain: charge accounts are still available to customers for all their purchases.