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2024 Designer Dozen: John Pennekamp




2024 Designer Dozen: John Pennekamp
John Pennekamp
Associate, BRR Architecture
Age: 31

Favorite City to Visit: Venice, Italy
Favorite Color: Deep Blue


Having designed more than one million square feet of grocery space, John has worked with some of the largest retailers and grocers, like Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, Wawa (Wawa, Pa.) and Whole Foods Market (Austin, Texas). Passionate about grocery design, he was recently a spotlight speaker at the Food Market Institute’s Energy & Store Development Conference and at the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) annual Philadelphia Design Festival. Taking part in BRR’s inaugural National Day of Service, he helped clean up the grounds of the historic Ormiston Mansion in Philadelphia. He’s also helped build wooden picnic tables for the Philadelphia Corinthian Gardens. “I enjoy giving back to the city parks because that’s where I spend a lot of my free time,” he says.

2024 Designer Dozen: John Pennekamp📷 Courtesy of BRR Architecture

What do you enjoy most about your job?

When I started a job right out of college, I was the one asking all the questions. Now, I’m at a point in my career where I’m able to start answering those questions. To give advice and recommendations to clients and mentor younger designers within BRR is a very rewarding experience for me.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced professionally?

In the last couple of years, grocery retail trends have shifted to more urban settings, building markets in very dense areas. To take on urban grocery retail projects and figure out how to build a grocery store in a building that wasn’t originally intended to be grocery retail is a challenge I’ve really enjoyed. At this point, we’ve converted everything from parking garages to office spaces into urban grocery retail stores.

What would be your advice to another young designer – or to a younger version of yourself?

If you’re coming out of college, you may have limited design experience, but you do know what attracts you to a store. You know what someone like you would enjoy in retail design. Those are things that can be shared and brought to the table. New designers have more insight than they realize. I would also tell my younger self that when designing big projects that take years to complete, to consider what will be relevant when the store opens. It’s not just interpreting current design trends; it’s thinking about what trends will be relevant five to 10 years into the future – not just right now.


Describe a recent project that you were involved in.

We recently designed a Whole Foods Market in Manhattan, New York. It was previously an office building, not at all a typical setting for a grocery store. Working within the confines of a space that was once a cubical farm and turning that into a grocery store with an engaging, in-person shopping experience was a fun challenge.

If I had a completely unlimited budget for a project, I would…

…source all the materials from local artists.

My dream project is…

…a winery.

My favorite thing to do when I leave the office is…

…spend time with my newborn and wife exploring the outdoors.




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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