Boxcar Grocer plans for expansion

Two new locations in the works for summer or fall openings, reveals owner Alphonzo Cross

Courtesy of Ish Holmes

Alphonzo Cross opened the first Boxcar Grocer—an urban corner store focused on local and healthy food and goods—in Castleberry Hill in 2011, but earlier this year, he closed the store to hammer out a long term business plan. Cross now reveals that his ultimate goal is to have 10 to 20 locations in Atlanta, plus hundreds nationwide.

“We’re trying to change the idea of what a convenience store is. It’s not just bulletproof glass and expired food. We want to increase the access points for quality food products for urban dwellers,” Cross says. “Our long-term goal is to be the Starbucks of corner stores.”

He hopes to open two locations this summer or fall, and is looking in Grant Park, Old 4th Ward, and Downtown. He’s yet to sign any leases.

Cross says the new locations will feature “a more well-rounded, robust, and curated product mix of healthy and conventional food options more accessible to the average person.” For example, instead of just offering Kashi cereal, Boxcar Grocer will sell Cheerios, too.

The new stores will be smaller than the original. Cross calls them “marketplace stores”—located in contained spaces like airports, malls, hotels, or markets. They’ll be about 200 to 500 square feet with a focus on non-perishable goods like local candles and soaps, nut butters, bars, and granola, plus Arden’s Garden juices and smoothies. Instead of having a prep kitchen, the marketplace stores will outsource grab-and-go sandwiches to an outside vendor.

Once several marketplace stores are up and running, Cross hopes to expand to “single-door stores”—stand-alone buildings or those in a strip mall-style shopping center. These will be larger, about 500 to 1,000 square feet, and have “more of a market feel” with perishables like bread, milk, eggs, produce, and brewed coffee. Boxcar Grocer will also offer same-day delivery.