Rouses Market will make its return to Denham Springs on Wednesday, when the grocery chain opens a store in Juban Crossing.
The Thibodaux-based chain had a location at 630 S. Range Ave. in the late 1990s in a building once home to a National Superstore. Back then, Rouses had eight stores in the Houma-Thibodaux area. Today, the chain has 45 locations stretching from Lafayette to Gulf Shores, Alabama.
“When we were here before, we were a little bit ahead of our time,” said Donny Rouse, managing partner. “We weren’t quite ready to make a move that far away from our home office. It was a far stretch for us. Plus, we were in a store that was older and smaller than our competition.”
Today, instead of being in an older, smaller space, the nearly 50,000-square-foot store is one of the main attractions in Juban Crossing, the long-awaited regional shopping center that features retailers such as Belk, Academy Sports, Old Navy and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
While Rouse led a media tour around the store Tuesday, employees in black polo shirts moved about, cheerily telling visitors “Welcome to Rouses!” About 150 people will work in the store.
The layout is a little different, Rouse said, with the produce section in the middle of the store next to a section selling fresh, prechopped vegetables and fruits. The fresh seafood department is one of the first things shoppers see.
“We wanted something more exciting and fun,” Rouse said. “This is not a traditional box grocery store. We figure people will spend a lot of time in here.”
Over the past few years, Rouses has positioned itself as a more upscale chain, with a strong focus on Louisiana products. Those products range from packaged items such as Abita beer and Zapp’s Potato Chips, to king cakes and jambalaya prepared in the store, and fresh meat and produce supplied by local farmers.
“Nobody has the mix that we offer to our customers,” Rouse said. “We don’t put all this stuff in the store to make a big show for the grand opening. We put all this in the store, and we make it work.”
Rouses’ return to Denham Springs comes after the store made a splash in Lafayette and New Orleans. Rouse said the company had wanted to get back into the Baton Rouge market for years, but it was easier to go into the other cities first.
The chain is using the same playbook to take on the Baton Rouge market as it did in Lafayette.
First, it opened a store in an outlying community. Rouses opened a Youngsville store in 2009, then its first Lafayette location opened in 2011. After the Juban Crossing opening, Rouses plans to build a 55,545-square-foot store on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge in the Long Farm Village development.
The timetable for the Long Farm Village opening is still up in the air, Rouse said. The store is waiting on Antioch Road to be extended from Jefferson Highway to Airline Highway and for installation of a traffic signal. “We can’t open without that road being open and a traffic signal,” he said.
Plans are in the works for a third Rouses in metro Baton Rouge. The location hasn’t been nailed down yet, but Rouse said he’s looking at spots in Zachary, Gonzales and the heart of the city.
“There are plenty of opportunities here in Baton Rouge,” he said.
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.