Drive-through only grocer Zoomin Market opens in Olathe

04/28/2014 5:24 PM

04/29/2014 6:35 PM

Olathe’s new drive-through-only grocery store, Zoomin Market, is a hot new idea, but it opened with little fanfare.

The founders said they haven’t advertised yet because they want to roll out the business without being overwhelmed, and they still have a few things to fine-tune. Zoomin Market opened April 9 and had a grand opening Sunday at 12203 S. Strang Line Road.

“It’s kind of been a blessing that we haven’t had this huge swell. The weekends are getting better and the weekdays are growing,” said John Yerkes, founder and chief executive officer of Zoomin Market LLC. “People have come in to try it, getting 5 or 10 items, and are now coming back to get 50 or 70 items.”

Here’s my recent experience.

First I watched the quick tutorial at

zoominmarket.com

.

Customers create an account using their email address and a password. Then they can shop by brand (including Keebler, Purina and Kraft) or by aisle (such as dairy, produce or meats).

Within a few minutes I had four items in my cart and was ready to check out. But I couldn’t find the “checkout lane” on the website. Clicking on “my cart” just brought up another page of information. A call to the store and a couple of more tries took care of the glitch. I paid for my order and printed out my receipt.

I had set a pickup time for later in the day but then stressed about making it on time. But not to worry, Zoomin keeps the items at the proper temperatures until their customers arrive, even if it is the next day.

Since I didn’t have my pickup code on my printout (my fault for getting in a rush and grabbing the wrong page), I was directed to pull over into a covered parking lane. A woman in an SUV in the next lane, who had stopped to see what Zoomin was all about, asked me what I thought of the drive-through grocery store. She thought that Olathe might be a little too old-school for Zoomin.

Even without my code, my groceries were packed up in my Jeep by some friendly Zoomin workers (there is no additional fee for the service, and the market will not allow tipping) and I was out of the lot 5 minutes after arriving.

I couldn’t wait to compare prices. Strawberries were $2.95 a pound at Zoomin. At one nearby discounter they were $2.49, but they were $3.99 at an area grocery store chain. I did regret my impulse purchase, Keebler Fudge Sticks for $3.69 at Zoomin. They were $1.99 at the discounter, $3.19 at the supermarket — but also $3.69 at another standard grocer.

Yerkes said this is the kind of feedback he’s looking for. He wants his prices to be in the same range as his competition. Zoomin doesn’t have to pay cashiers since their customers are checking out online, and they don’t have to dress up the interior of the store, which is a warehouse stockroom. They also don’t have the insurance costs of a walk-in retail establishment.

Zoomin Market carries many standard grocery items — meat and fish, prepared foods, pet care, cereal, canned goods, baking items, seasonings and spices, pasta, frozen baked goods, fruit and vegetables, bottled water and soft drinks, condiments and salad dressings, snacks, and baby food and diapers. It also carries several local brands including coffee from the Broadway Roasting Co. It hopes to add special pork and sausage products from the Local Pig’s wholesale plant.

Zoomin expected to draw from a range of five miles or less, much like a traditional grocery store. However, the drive-through grocery has had customers from Spring Hill, Edgerton and even south Kansas City.

But is it too “old-school” for some?

“Younger people grow up using their mobile devices for ordering,” Yerkes said. “People are saying they are sitting down with their elderly parents to place their orders. One mom was sitting in the doctor’s office placing her order. Another was like, ‘Are you kidding? I don’t have to get my kids out of the car,’ on why she liked it. The family also can sit down and plan the meals at home.”

Zoomin Market is on the former Gambucci’s Italian Restaurant site. Zoomin bought the 10,318-square-foot building, gutted it and expanded by about 4,000 square feet. The store is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The owners are looking at sites in Johnson County for another location, and they hope to open a third Zoomin on the Missouri side of the state line.

“We want to get our feet under us here and then expand the concept,” Yerkes said.

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