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EkoPlaza and Groenhof Passage: two large organic supermarkets open in Alkmaar (Part 1)

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Within a month of each other two new organic retail outlets – the organic supermarket EkoPlaza (1500 m², sales surface 1200 m²) and the green shopping centre Groenhof Passage (total area 1000 m², sales surface 750 m²) – have opened their doors to the public in the town of Alkmaar. The competition to attract the customers in this medium-sized town of 88,000 inhabitants just north of Amsterdam has yet to start in earnest, but the starting whistle has been blown.


Picture: Groenhof Passage Holland (can be enlargend by click)

Biofood Magazine has been tracking the developments of both companies in the “cheese town” interviewing Ekoplaza a week after it opened, and Groenhof Passage during the run up to its opening.


                                                             Groenhof Passage

Arjen Nijdam, owner of the organic food store in Schoorl and partner of the organic shop in Alkmaar, had been playing with the idea of developing a variant of the Green Passage in Rotterdam for a number of years. His idea: a number of green and natural products outlets situated around a large organic food store as a kind of customer magnet. The problem seemed to lie in finding suitable retail space and to fill this in the right way, until he came across the ground floor of the newly built "Hart van Alkmaar" located on the Hofplein, around 200 m from the current location of his organic food store and the Groene Weg Butcher. The “organic” architecture of the building provided an excellent ambiance for a “green” project.  More important was the location of the building complex which is situated between the lively Alkmaar city centre and the newly built Alkmaar Overstadt with its dynamic shopping centre the Noorder Arcade. Despite these apparently optimum conditions, Nijdam could not manage to engage enough people to join the project. Things changed when EkoPlaza announced the opening of its first outlet in Alkmaar. A telephone conversation with the project developer from “Hart van Alkmaar” confirmed that his dream address was still available. With the price per square meter now at an acceptable level Nijdam knew that it was “now or never”.


Together with his business partners, Jan-Derk de Boer, manager of the previous organic food store in Alkmaar and Evert van Kessel from Van Kessel-Naturkostladen (picture: f.r.t.l.: de Boer, Nijdam, Van Kessel) Nijdam bought 750 m² in "Hart van Alkmaar". The enterprise was formed as a limited company (BV - Besloten Vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid) with further equity being raised by the companies Natudis und Wessanen through an investment fund, as well as the wholesaler Udea through the company Organic Retail Partners. The majority of the surface area is accounted for by the new organic food store with around 60 m² reserved for educational activities. The Groene Weg Butcher and a natural products drugstore will use around 125 m² sales surface. These three “green stores” each have a separate entrance to the street, but once on one store customers can move uninterrupted from one shop to another. The trendy designer shop “Charleston” has also opened an outlet near to the Groenhof Group.


Nijdam will continue to manage the business of his previous shop in Schoorl. De Boer and Van Kessel share the responsibility for the new store in Alkmaar. All three entrepreneurs have set themselves the challenge of creating a special and relaxed shopping atmosphere, in an area of 500m², which could easily look like a normal supermarket. To do this they have chosen to concentrate on the individuality of the various departments, as Nijdam explains: “The bakery and the cheese counter have the same dimensions of an individual shop, and the wine department with its attractive specialities provides the customer with a convivial area. Both areas have the feel of a delicatessen. The fish counter offers fresh fish on Fridays and Saturdays from a local fisher.” The store has two checkouts with the option for a third if necessary. A five-week advertising campaign with household mailings, as well as weekly full-page adverts in the Alkmaar edition of the newspaper Noord-Hollands Dagblad is designed to raise consumer awareness of the green shopping centre. In addition the use of bus advertisements is being investigated.


The Groenhof Passage opened its doors on the 19th May, and gave the new public the opportunity to meet the suppliers on stands in and around the store in Sunday 5th June.  The three stores are open from Monday to Friday between 8.30 and 19.00 and on Saturdays until 17.00. By comparison EkoPlaza is open for business Mondays to Saturdays from 8.00 to 21.00.


(Pictures: Bavo van den Idsert)




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