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    Mini Mini Has Big Plans for Its 'Modern Convenience' Concept

    Merchandise mix offers the “classic” vs. the “rad.”

    By Renee M. Covino, Convenience Store News

    PORTLAND — Local media has dubbed Mini Mini as "Portland’s First Hipster-Themed Convenience Store," but one of its founders refutes this label, explaining that Mini Mini is a "modern convenience concept" that is somewhat misunderstood, but in it for the long haul.

    "People need to label everything so that it fits in a box, but the truth is, we don’t fit in a box. When we opened Mini Mini, nobody knew what to do with it," co-owner Matt Brown, 35, told Convenience Store News, speaking about the public reaction to the minimalist-designed single store that opened this past September in Portland’s Buckman neighborhood. "People walk in and say, 'I think this is a c-store, but I’ve never seen anything like it.' Then, the fact that my business partners and I are young, it’s easy to classify [the store] as a 'hipster mart.'"

    Mini Mini was designed by Brown and its three other founders/investors to be hip, but also to have a much broader appeal than just to Portland’s hipster crowd.

    From families with little kids, to daytime professionals, to nighttime city folks, "we want everyone to feel welcome," Brown said. "It’s interesting they gave us one label. We just roll with it. As long as people are talking about [Mini Mini], that’s a good thing."

    The Mini Mini concept is the creation of Brown and one of his partners, Jonathan Felix-Lund, who both started toying with the idea four years ago. While on a business road trip, they recognized a need for "a refined version of a convenience store" that was easy to access and played to different diets.

    They envisioned a mix of the indulgent and the healthy, with meat options as well as vegan and gluten-free options, but without the aisles, shopping carts and parking-lot hassles of the large grocery stores where customers could typically find such an assortment. They started referring to their idea as "the c-store, refreshed."

    When that vision came to fruition and Mini Mini debuted a few months ago, customers discovered they could quickly choose from a dichotomy of options — the "classic" vs. the "rad," as Brown has relayed the approach to his staff. For instance, a "classic" option in the candy category is a Snickers bar, while a "rad" option is Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.  

    Mini Mini has carried this "classic vs. rad" merchandising throughout the store, offering items customers know they love alongside options to try something different. The store’s assortment is built around the notion that everything revolves around grab-and-go but with a streamlined choice, rather than a cluttered and chaotic heap of emergency shopping SKUs.

    "We want to have options, but we also have to make sure our product bounce doesn’t get too wacky, leaning toward one dietary option or being too healthy," acknowledged Brown. "We have Hostess doughnuts and Red Bull because when you’re leaving a bar late at night, that’s what you want from a c-store."

    Mini Mini aims to stick to flat pricing as much as it can — $2 instead of $1.99. The founders also designed it so that nothing in the store costs more than $25. Currently, there’s a bottle of wine priced at $25, but most trios of snack foods — a sandwich, snack and drink — are purposely priced so that the combined cost is $10 or less. This was done so that customers could compare the prices to a grocery store where "you’re looking at $15 to do that same thing," according to Brown.

    Brown and Felix-Lund are the operating partners of Mini Mini, but there are a total of four founders/investors, which include two pizza company entrepreneurs who took their local Sizzle Pie concept to Seattle and Brooklyn.

    The foursome have a goal of running five Mini Mini stores in Portland within the next three years.

    "Oh yeah, we’re already scouting out the next location," Brown revealed. "We want to put in as many Mini Minis as we can, and pool our resources to do so."

    Setting up Mini Mini locations beyond its home base is a strong possibility, too, as there have already been requests by building owners in New York City and Seattle looking for shops like Mini Mini.

    "The whole goal is to lock things in place here. Then, anything is game," Brown said.  

    Look in the February issue of Convenience Store News for more on Mini Mini. 

    By Renee M. Covino, Convenience Store News
    • About Renee M. Covino Contributing Editor Renée M. Covino is a veteran researcher, editor and writer with more than 30 years of experience in the mass retail sector. Her articles and columns have appeared online and in print for dozens of industry trade magazines, newsletters, metro newspapers, Fortune 500 company reports and college textbooks. Covino is a self-named “store connoisseur” who not only writes about retail, but happily supports it.

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