Monday, September 29, 2008

Independent Grocer Memo: Same Store, New Name, Same Harold

Guest Memo
By Kristina Jarvis
September 29, 2008

Harold Guy (pictured at left with his son and partner Byron) has seen his fair share of changes since opening his grocery store on 28th Street East 38 years ago.

He's been through several distributor and wholesaler changes. He saw his store burn down in 1992, only to be rebuilt in 1993. He also saw the store through a change of ownership, when his son Byron bought it in 1998.

But one thing has always remained the same - the service.

"We've always been about high service," he says. "The sign is probably less important than the Harold's name, Harold's is the constant"

Harold's recently changed its name from "Harold's IGA" to "Harold's Family Foods," a shift motivated by the need to maintain the store's independence. The move takes Harold's away from the Sobey's brand and towards MacDonalds Consolidated, part of the Safeway grocery company. MacDonalds provides brand and Safeway specific labels to its stores, including the "O" Organics line of groceries.

Harold says there were no hard feelings between the store and Sobey's about the switch, and says that the new wholesaler is one whose values are closer to the store."

In reviewing different flags, or banners, we found that the Family Foods banner suited our independent needs," he says. "The name too, Family Foods, it's kind of who we are. It's a family dealing with families and relationships over the years."

George Marchildon and his wife, Roxanne, don't seem to mind the name change. They've been customers for 20 years, and say their only concern is the service.

"We don't have to agree with it. As long as they're happy and the service stays the same, we're happy," he says. "It's still Harold's as far as I am concerned."

Marchildon works as a distributor for Pepsi to many stores in Prince Albert, including Harold's, and says he appreciates being treated as an ordinary customer when he goes on his days off to shop."

When I shop here, they treat me like a customer," he says. "When I shop somewhere else, they treat me like the Pepsi guy."

"It gets to be a problem," adds Roxanne. "When we're out in a store and just because he works for Pepsi and they're out of Pepsi, they'll come bug him instead of letting us go out and have our family time."

In the end, Harold says that it comes down to what the store needs to survive.

"You have to pay your bills and you're all alone at it so you have to do the best you can to maintain and to employ the people you require to do the best job for your customers," he says. "Everything we do starts and ends here."

Byron says there are plans to host a grand re-opening once the store has completed its renovations.

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo Editor's Note: Safeway Stores, Inc.'s private label relationship with Macdonalds Consolidated in Canada (see italics in the story above) is part of Safeway's strategy to market its O' Organics and other brands -- Eating Right, Safeway, Lucerne -- beyond its own Safeway stores in the U.S. and Canada, as we've reported on and written about in numerous stories. You can read a selection of those pieces from the blog here and here.

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