By Frank Beard
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Nashville may have a reputation for its restaurant and music scene, but it’s also a great place to discover innovative retail concepts.
Here are four to consider next time you visit.
1. Shop at Dollar General’s new convenience store.
Dollar General’s first DGX store opened in Nashville in early 2017. With a smaller footprint and items geared toward immediate consumption, you might say it is Dollar General’s version of a convenience store. Additional locations have opened in Raleigh, N.C., Philadelphia, Pa., and Cleveland, Ohio. A new location will also open by the end of summer in Nashville’s trendy SoBro neighborhood, with a product selection aimed at “vertical-living customers.”
Overall, I was impressed. The store is clean, modern, well-staffed and has fantastic customer service. One cashier was excited to tell me all about the concept and how neat it is to work at the nation’s first DGX. Outside, I watched a group of Vanderbilt students walking to the store, with one exclaiming, “let’s stop at DGX; they have wine.”
The store offers an option to pay for items using the DG GO! app. Scan your items, pay on the app, scan the QR code at the checkout tablet near the register, and walk out when you’re finished.
I did see a few areas for improvement. The grab-and-go section could use some work, as it only featured a small assortment of salads with a lot of empty space. The coffee machine and fountain drinks also felt a bit lacking. However, this store is a great start and excels in areas that some convenience retailers do not—such as general merchandise.
2. Enjoy single origin, pour-over coffee at Twice Daily.
Speaking of coffee, I think Twice Daily may have raised the bar for quality. It’s no secret that leading convenience retailers now see themselves as “restaurants-to-go,” competing directly with QSRs and coffee shops, but Twice Daily’s White Bison Coffee concept has one of the best offers I’ve encountered.
It’s becoming common to find bean-to-cup machines, but what about single-origin, pour-over? White Bison utilizes the ModBar pour-over system, which is built into the counter and looks kind of like a science lab. I was able to choose from two varieties of single-origin, micro-lot beans. Flavors are rotated every two months. An enthusiastic barista told me all about the process as he ground up a vial of carefully weighed Costa Rican beans.
“White Bison Coffee is a new business model for our company—designed as a growth strategy,” said Dawn Boulanger, vice president of marketing at Tri-Star Energy, the parent company of Twice Daily. “We wanted to continue to expand our food and beverage offer, but in a way that was differentiated from our competition.”
As Dawn explained, the company partnered with an expert in the business who goes to origin, buys direct from farmers, roasts the beans and delivers them to the stores.
Beyond coffee, the indoor-seating offers upscale amenities and carefully considered staging for seating. The Wi-Fi was also exceptionally fast for a public connection, and I was able to reach speeds around 75 Mbps.
For lunch, I had a smoked turkey croissant with brie cream, blackberry jam, green leaf lettuce and a five-grain croissant. A few days prior, I purchased turkey jerky from one of ESSTAR’s Krista’s Healthy on the Go displays.
3. Stay inside your hotel and let GoPuff deliver.
Since the markup on the Corona in my hotel minibar was rather high, I decided to order some through my GoPuff app. It arrived 20 minutes later.
For those who haven’t heard of GoPuff, it’s a mobile app that promotes itself as a replacement for the convenience store. They’ve expanded aggressively near more than 100 college campuses, and they’re building intense brand loyalty with Gen Z and younger millennial consumers. More than 2,000 products are available—including alcohol, where permitted—and the $1.95 delivery fee is waived for orders over $49. For $5.95 per month, you can join “The Fam” and avoid paying for delivery altogether.
4. Rent an electric scooter from your smartphone.
Although this isn’t technically a retail experience, I suggest you experience it.
Electric scooters descended on many American cities throughout 2018, and they’re certainly common in Nashville—especially around Vanderbilt University. One of my Uber drivers complained about the public transportation system and mentioned how frequent delays have caused friends to miss work and lose jobs.
Fortunately, these rentable scooters can help with that problem. They make it easier to avoid driving, renting a ride share, or finding public transportation for short trips. During my visit, a fleet of four or more were staged outside of the hotel every morning.
I was able to rent directly through my Uber app. Just scan the QR code. Push away with your feet, press the acceleration button and off you go. Mine reached just under 15 miles per hour. When I was done, I opened the app and pressed a button to end my ride. It’s quick, easy and very convenient.
ABOUT FRANK BEARD
Frank Beard is an analyst/evangelist for convenience store trends at GasBuddy, a NACS Magazine contributor, and a speaker and advocate for the industry’s healthful offerings. You can follow Frank on Twitter at @FrankBeard.