MILL CREEK — Kombucha on tap. Made to order avocado toast. Frozen yogurt with a toppings bar. And, of course, a place to return Amazon packages.
Welcome to Amazon Go’s first foray into the ’burbs.
Amazon opened the doors to the convenience store in Mill Creek Tuesday, part of an effort to reach customers closer to home by moving into suburban neighborhoods and expand its selection by adding more drinks, more food and more household items to its 1,300 product roster.
“At Amazon Go, we are aiming to reinvent convenience,” said Ayesha Harper, a 14-year Amazon veteran who now runs Amazon Convenience, the division of the company that includes its Amazon Go stores and its private-label food brand Amazon Kitchen.
Gearing up for the Mill Creek opening, Harper said most of her days were spent deciding what would most “delight” customers and trying out the food and drink options to help make that determination, from turkey pesto toasted baguettes to pomegranate kombucha.
Amazon announced in January it planned to launch a new Amazon Go store format this year, featuring the high-tech checkout experience that is common in its convenience stores but hoping to reach more customers by setting up shop closer to their homes. The 6,150-square-foot location in Mill Creek is the first test of that format and Amazon plans to open a second site in the Los Angeles area later this year.
In Snohomish County, 3,250 square feet of the store are devoted to the front-of-the-house, or the part where customers shop and place their lunch order. That’s bigger than most Amazon Go stores, which range in size from 450 to 2,700 square feet.
In addition to its convenience stores, Amazon’s grocery division includes Amazon Fresh grocery stores and Whole Foods Market, which the company acquired in 2017. The Amazon Go grand opening comes after Amazon announced in March it would close its bookstores, electronics stores and mall pop-up kiosks, planning to redirect its efforts toward the grocery business.
“We remain committed to building great, long-term physical retail experiences and technologies,” Amazon said after the announcement. “And we’re working closely with our affected employees to help them find new roles within Amazon.”
Amazon’s physical retail sales made up about 3% of sales in the quarter ending Dec. 31. It generated $4.69 billion in revenue from its brick-and-mortar footprint, mostly from Whole Foods.
Like most Amazon Go stores, the Mill Creek site features Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology, the system that lets customers skip the checkout line when shopping. On Monday before the store’s opening, Harper demonstrated how customers can enter the store using their palm, a code on their phone or their credit card. Once through the turnstile, a network of cameras and sensors keeps track of what they take in and out of their “virtual cart,” and charges their account after they leave.
“The idea behind this technology was that it would fade into the background when customers were shopping. You’re not meant to notice it,” Harper said. “It’s really designed to let you get back to your day.”
Built in a new development with a neighboring teriyaki restaurant, wine bar and apartment building, the Mill Creek location marks the eighth Amazon Go store in the Seattle area.
Amazon did not disclose the cost of the store or how long it took to construct. California-based Vintage Housing developed the property, according to a spokesperson for the company.
Aside from the kombucha taps, the new Amazon Go offers customers household items like pet food, motor oil, Ziploc bags and Clorox wipes. It’s also the first Amazon Go store to offer freshly brewed coffee, four flavors of ICEE slushies and a 30-item made-to-order menu curated from a team of in-house chefs.
Harper did not disclose how many employees worked on the culinary side of the Amazon Go store, or how many people the store employed. The workers are a mix of new hires and transfers from other Amazon locations, she said.
Amazon Go employees make an average of $17-$19 per hour, according to Glassdoor. A job posting for the Mill Creek location on salary.com listed a rate of $18.25 per hour and a $1,500 sign-on bonus that expired at the beginning of April.
While Amazon is expanding its grocery footprint, a group of workers at an Amazon Fresh store in the Central District are organizing to bring attention to the working conditions at Amazon’s retail locations, calling for the company to raise wages, change attendance policies and provide chairs for cashiers.
The grocery workers announced they had formed an independent union earlier this year, just months before Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York, successfully formed their own union.
The Mill Creek Amazon Go store features many of the convenience store staples any customer would expect to see: Starbucks coffee, Doritos and Lays potato chips and Lunchables.
But it also offers customers Amazon’s own brand, from chicken Caesar wraps to chicken tortilla soup to “take and bake” pizzas. The shelves boast Amazon’s Aplenty brand for snacks and chips as well as its Cursive brand for wine.
The new store follows an orange color scheme and features big block letters announcing what customers can expect in different parts of the store. An area that offers, as Harper put, “in a pinch groceries” like butter and eggs, had a sign that reads “The Fridge” and above the made to order kitchen sits a sign that reads “Let’s Eat.”
“Mill Creek is kind of in our backyard,” Harper said Monday, gearing up for the grand opening. “We like to often start new things close to home.”