The Ground Floor: Convenience store rises in Iowa City's Peninsula neighborhood
Former dog biscuit store remade as source for 'last-minute items'
Before Alex and Laura Taylor opened their new business, Peninsables, in Iowa City’s Peninsula neighborhood, Alex recalled “the nearest place to buy groceries was three miles away.”
Or, more specifically, the nearest place to buy groceries for people. Since February 2016, the Taylors had been operating the retail arm of their gourmet dog biscuit business, Woofables, out of the Peninsula location. (The Woofables bakery is located in Coralville.)
“We had been encouraged to open a retail location close to the dog park,” Taylor said. “Eighty percent of people in the Peninsula have pets, and most of those are dogs.”
But foot traffic to the shop, while good, wasn’t good enough, Taylor said. When the last available retail space in the neighborhood became a fitness business instead of the convenience store that he thought it was going to be, he decided to step up.
“I said we need to open a grocery,” he recalled. “The opportunity was huge, so it was really a no-brainer.”
For legal and tax purposes, the Taylors formed a separate company with a new name.
“The name Peninsables pays homage to Woofables but also recognizes the geographic location of the store,” Taylor said.
Peninsables customers still will be able to buy dog biscuits, but they also will find things such as toilet paper, canned goods, milk and other household staples.
“What do I find myself needing at the last minute?” Taylor said on how he selected the inventory for the new business.
He also did some simple market research.
“I went to a lot of convenience stores and saw what they were selling,” he said. “I sat at the wine bar (located next door to Peninsables) and asked people what types of things they’d like to see.”
For items he may not have considered, he keeps a grocery list by the register to which customers may make additions.
“If they want me to carry something, they just need to ask,” he said.
Along with inventory, the Taylors had to invest in a refrigerator and freezer for the new business. Given the low margins in the grocery business, Taylor said he expects it will take about a year and a half to recoup his initial investment.
“We’re already seeing incremental foot traffic,” he said. “I just need to be patient. My goal is to be the neighborhood grocery store.”
AT A GLANCE
Owners: Alex and Laura Taylor
Address: 2280 Willenbrocke Circle, Iowa City
Telephone: (319) 499-1216