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SCT

High-tech convenience store is a fuel station for foodies

Developer St. Charles Town Co. is helping retailer Choice Market turn a former restaurant site in downtown Denver into a high-tech convenience store where customers can get both gasoline and gastronomy.

Choice combines the operating hours, store sizes and transaction times of a traditional convenience store with the product selection of a natural grocery and fast-casual restaurant. 

"A contemporary, fresh and local market will fill a huge void in this dense part of the city," said Charles H. Woolley II, founding principal and president of St. Charles Town Co., in a press release. "It has been nearly two decades since we had Wild Oats next door to this site. We are pleased to partner with Choice to bring fresh food and innovation to the neighborhood."

The site, which is to open during the second half of 2019, will comprise a 2,700-square-foot Choice Market as well as fuel pumps, electric-vehicle charging stations, a bike-share terminal, some electric-scooter charging stations and solar-collection facilities. Customers will have the option to skip the checkout process by ordering and paying ahead through a proprietary smartphone app, or else to do checkout as they normally would at any other store.

"There's nothing more valuable than our customer's time, and we are really excited to offer this new format which allows them to combine several different shopping occasions in one stop, while providing them the option to skip the checkout process altogether," said Mike Fogarty, founder and CEO of Choice Market, in a press release. "If customers cannot make it to the store, we will deliver any of our products to their doorstep within 45 [minutes]. That is true convenience."

To enable the autonomous checkout, Choice has teamed up with AVA Retail, which uses artificial intelligence, computer vision and similar technology to track customer purchases within the store. The platform uses far less hardware and infrastructure than the technology of competitors, while still leveraging the Microsoft Azure cloud, the partners say.

Choice currently has one site open in downtown Denver, and one now under construction in south Denver, scheduled to open in 2019. Given the changes to the liquor laws, Choice will be among the first retailers in the state to offer delivery of prepared foods, groceries and full-strength beer, all in one transaction. To help facilitate this growth, Choice has brought in John Varsames as COO, because he brings some 30 years' experience opening and operating natural groceries, including positions at Alfalfa's, Wild Oats and Whole Foods.

By Brannon Boswell

Managing Editor/SCT

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