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01/24/2022

First Black-owned frictionless store opens in North America

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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autonomous store
Nourish & Bloom operates a ground-breaking autonomous store.

A hybrid autonomous grocery store with a contactless bistro is making history for several reasons.

Nourish & Bloom Market is the first autonomous store with Black co-founders in North America. The store, in Fayetteville, Ga.,  is also the first autonomous and fully contactless grocery store in Georgia and the Southeast U.S. 

The shopping experience at Nourish & Bloom is designed to be effortless.  Customers enter  through a secure turnstile using a QR code from the Nourish & Bloom app. Once inside, customers select the items they want to purchase and simply walk out. The system knows what products have been taken through a combination of 32 ceiling-mounted cameras, as well as weighted dry and cooler shelves. Payment is taken from the customer’s pre-selected payment method within their Nourish & Bloom app. 

The MRN Agency has been the lead tech installation agency for the past two years for UST, which provided autonomous hardware and software solutions for the new Nourish & Bloom store. These include UST’s hybrid frictionless solution “UST Vision Checkout,” which enables one part of the store to function fully autonomously and the other through vision technology which powers the touchless shopping experience.

Other technology solutions featured in the Nourish & Bloom store architecture include the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, Hitachi Vantara vision cameras, Intel Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, and Shekel shelving solutions.

An increasing number of retailers are opening autonomous stores, as exemplified the proprietary frictionless Just Walk Out” experience checkout-free store pioneer Amazon offers at select Amazon Fresh grocery stores, as well as at its Amazon Go convenience format. Other retailers that have recently launched pilots of autonomous store formats include Wakefern Food Corp., which is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI)-based frictionless checkout technology from Israeli computer vision solutions provider Trigo at select grocery locations. 

Other examples include convenience retailer Circle K, which recently worked with Standard AI to retrofit a Tempe, Ariz. location without ceasing store operations or altering its layout. The retailer was able to integrate the Standard AI computer vision platform fully with its store’s retail operations, including inventory management and visual merchandising systems.

And fuel/convenience retailer BP just began retrofitting select convenience stores across its network to provide checkout-free shopping, using the Grabango autonomous checkout platform.

Nourish Bloom Co-founders Jaime and Jilea Hemmings launched this health-centric store inspired by their son Jabari, who lives with autism. The Hemmings have partnered with major brands such as Microsoft and Coca-Cola to develop STEM experiences for children delivered through their autonomous store.

“Not only children with autism need to eat healthy, everyone does, really. So, we thought about what we could do to support the community” said Jilea Hemmings. “It’s a tremendous honor and we just want to be on the forefront for what technology looks like, especially for Black and brown young children.”

“We firmly believe that the future of convenience stores is all frictionless and digital-first. UST brings convenience back to convenience stores,” said Subhodip Bandyopadhyay, GM, emerging technology solutions, UST.