Winthrop

Local grocer’s lighting retrofit saves energy and supports community

Brighter small town grocery shopping experience

Bright Energy Savings

 

Small-town grocery store Winthrop Market recently completed a major lighting retrofit project to save energy and improve the shopping experience for its community with the help of a CERT Seed Grant.

Rural grocery stores like Winthrop Market are Main Street anchors in more than 200 towns across Greater Minnesota, many of which have significant opportunities for energy efficiency—and new LED lighting is a great place to start!

 

I figured LED lighting would brighten up the store to make it more customer friendly. A lot of customers have complimented it and noticed the difference.

Andrew Schmidt, Owner of Winthrop Market

Small town grocery stores have been called the “heart of rural communities.” But a majority of these stores in Minnesota cited operating costs as a major challenge in a recent survey of rural grocers across the state conducted by a research team at the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.

These costs, which include the amount of energy a store uses, are motivating many stores to pursue energy efficiency projects as cost saving measures.

Winthrop Market in Winthrop is no exception. The local grocery store recently completed a major lighting retrofit project to save energy and improve the shopping experience for its community with the help of a CERT Seed Grant.

 

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Photo: Winthrop EDA along with Winthrop Opportunities provided loans to keep Winthrop Market open and locally owned and operated. Credit: Winthrop EDA

New LED lighting at Winthrop Market

“When I took over the store, I knew there were quite a few fluorescent bulbs to replace with LEDs,” said Winthrop Market’s owner Andrew Schmidt, who purchased and took over operations of the locally owned and operated store in 2019.

“I’m a local guy with no prior grocery experience, but I didn’t want to see this store close when the previous owner was selling it. I didn’t think our town could afford to lose its grocery store,” Schmidt said, about his motivations for entering the grocery business and supporting the local community.

After taking over the store, Schmidt applied for and was awarded a West Central CERT Seed Grant that covered the labor costs of a local electrician to install new LED lighting on the store’s sales floor and backroom, one of the projects on Schmidt’s list of upgrades.

“The store building is over 30 years old. I have all kinds of things to update and try to look at the opportunities I have, while piecing together whatever help I can get,” Schmidt said.

I looked at the cost of replacing the fluorescent bulbs, how many more I’d have to replace, and the cost of getting those replaced… Between this CERTs grant and a rebate from the city, this project was as cheap as I was ever going to get.

Andrew Schmidt, Owner of Winthrop Market

Schmidt was in touch with Jacob Selseth, West Central CERT regional coordinator, to learn more about available resources to support small business investments in clean energy. A CERT Seed Grant was a good fit for Winthrop Market’s LED lighting retrofit.

In addition to support from CERTs, Schmidt received assistance for the store’s lighting retrofit in the form of a rebate from We Save Business, a program managed by the City of Winthrop’s municipal electric utility for qualifying commercial customers.

“I looked at the cost of replacing the fluorescent bulbs, how many more I’d have to replace, and the cost of getting those replaced,” said Schmidt about how he decided to prioritize the lighting project. “Between this CERTs grant and a rebate from the city, this project was as cheap as I was ever going to get.”

Cost savings and a brighter shopping experience

In addition to energy and cost savings from the lighting project, Schmidt had a hunch that the upgrades would also improve the look of the store’s interior and create a safer, more welcoming shopping experience for his customers.

“I figured LED lighting would brighten up the store to make it more customer friendly,” he said. “A lot of customers have complimented it and noticed the difference.”

While Schmidt hopes he can find resources and partnerships to invest in a larger remodel project for the store in the years ahead, he has looked into other ways he can save energy and improve the shopping experience in the meantime. Since completing the recent sales floor lighting retrofit, Schmidt also replaced lighting in the store’s bathrooms, coolers, and outside security system with LEDs.

Schmidt has found success with these lighting upgrades and recommends other rural grocery stores consider these projects as low-hanging fruit.

“Upgrading lighting is a big improvement for stores. Not only is it cleaner and saves energy, the lighting is better and customers appreciate the improvements,” he said.

With the completion of Winthrop Market’s lighting projects, Schmidt has started exploring other energy efficiency upgrades, including the possibility of adding a new, more efficient bunker freezer and other refrigeration projects. For any energy efficiency project a rural grocery store explores, Schmidt recommends weighing both its costs and benefits.

“I try to look at the long run—what a project costs me and what it will save,” Schmidt said.

Project Snapshot

 
  • Clean Energy Focus: LED lighting
  • West Central CERT Seed Grant: $1,800
  • Total Project Cost: $3,118
  • Other Funds: utility rebate
  • Project Team: Mike Jackson, Jackson Electric and Andrew Schmidt, Winthrop Market
  • People Involved and Reached: 507
  • Annual Energy Savings: 27,156 kWh
 
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