How Crave Fresh Markets closed a major deal with support from Fixturelite

Dec. 8, 2021

The opportunity rolled in off the internet like so many quality sales leads do for Crave Distributing, but this one was special. Washington State University Vancouver was looking for a micro market solution. Crave, an operator in the micro market business for just over two years, was suddenly in the hunt.

WSU Vancouver is a commuter school with 3,500 students and staff. “We were very excited to have this RFP opportunity presented to us,” said James Jones, micro market manager at Crave. “We knew there would be challenges – tough competition, a short timeline and a rigid bid process that could make differentiation more difficult.”

Eliminating the café

Looking for a new foodservice solution, WSU had concluded that its traditional grill style café, open limited hours, was not always meeting the needs of students and staff who arrived and left at different hours. As with so many foodservice scenarios, the pandemic made WSU’s café concept extremely difficult to maintain. “It was obvious that a micro market was the right solution,” Jones said.

As a company, we focus on creating the ultimate experience for our clients,” Jones added. “The questions we asked ourselves before we began the bid process were, ‘How can we make this proposal as exciting as possible, really differentiating ourselves? How do we present ourselves in a way that will allow WSU to understand that we are not just placing a micro market – we are committed to a partnership?’”

Differentiator No. 1 – A show of commitment

Jones and his team sent a strong message at the initial WSU walk thru. Crave arrived with a group representing multiple company functions, from sales to marketing to operations. “The RFP was a short, 30-day window. Showing up with so many key people helped WSU to see our commitment,” Jones emphasized.

Differentiator No. 2 – Immediate support from Fixturelite

Brian Bortvedt, CFO of Corwin Beverage, parent company of Crave Distributing, knew that special and immediate attention was required. Jones and Bortvedt reached out to Steve Orlando, cofounder of Fixturelite, the industry’s leading supplier of micro market retail displays, equipment and design tools.

“As soon as we knew about the bid, we were able to get on the phone with Steve and talk through the process, plan ahead and begin moving on some custom aspects of the market that Fixturelite knew would work for us,” Bortvedt said.

“We then had Steve out here and he looked at the market with us and began assisting us with the proposal. Having a partner like Fixturelite gave us quite a competitive advantage,” he added.

Differentiator No. 3 – The Fixturelite Design tool

“James is so adept at using the Fixturelite Design Tool that it is almost unfair to his competition,” said Orlando. “His ability to use the tool, to engage all the way through the process, working with us, working with the WSU people – that had to make a huge difference when the time came for WSU to select the winning bid.”

“We asked for feedback after the bid was awarded and WSU said that ‘what set us apart the most was our design and our layout.’ They said that our vision and our ability to be so detail oriented with the design tool – that is what put us over the top,” Bortvedt noted.

“The client saw exactly what their market was going to look like. There were no unanswered questions,” added Jones.

Differentiator No. 4 – Multiple levels of creativity

James and his team used the Fixturelite Design Tool to set up the traffic flow in the market and to work with Orlando to develop a unique design, combining both the Executive and the Performance Collection from Fixturelite.

“The Design Tool and the support from Fixturelite helped us turn the space into a very inviting venue,” James said. “We even brought in some bright colors and graphics on the walls, which was well received by everyone.”

Moving to an unattended market meant that several café workers would need to find new campus employment. In another creative move, Crave hired a student employee to attend to the market, which was viewed in a very positive way by WSU.

“It is a classic win-win and a creative solution,” Jones said. “We added a student hire, we now have a student attendant – a good will ambassador on site, always keeping the market stocked and looking great.”

Shared values

“This is a great example of the importance of supplier relationships,” Bortvedt noted. “With both Fixturelite and 365 Retail Markets, it goes beyond quality products. It is a true partnership with added value.”

Jones added, “We shopped around for fixtures, but we weren't looking for the cheapest guy out there. The biggest thing for me is quality, attention to detail, expertise and really being creative. Anybody can throw up a micro market. Anybody can go put snacks in a basket and sell them through a kiosk. That is not our approach, nor Fixturelite’s. With their help and support, we now have a showcase location to visit with prospective clients.”

“Crave understands the importance of design, quality and differentiation. They are focused on creating spaces that are creative, use fundamental retail principles and as a result, generate a favorable customer experience, while maximizing sales performance. They get it,” Orlando observed.

Operators: align your company with Fixturelite and get ready to grow!

About the Author

Industry consultant and contributor Bob Tullio is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up and advises suppliers on how to successfully connect with operators. Tullio’s YouTube channel, b2b Perspective, is designed to “elevate your business in two minutes.” Tullio is currently developing an online course, Leverage the power of LinkedIn to grow your business. Visit to learn more about VMW's contributing editor and his b2b services.


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