Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Independent Grocer Memo: Tradition, Local Focus, Customer Service and More Keeps Central Oregon USA's Erickson's Thriftway in the Game

All in the family: Erickson's Thriftway managing partner Doug Schmidt (center) towers over two veteran employees at the Bend, Oregon flagship store -- head checker Debbie Huber (left) and assistant manager Marlena Lohman (right) -- only in physcial height and not in the way the independent grocer relates to its employees, which is as part of the family. Debbie Huber has worked at the Bend, Oregon store for 32 years. Marlena Lohman has worked at the store for 29 years. Doug Schmidt is the rookie among the three, having worked for Erickson's Thriftway for a mere 28 years, starting out on the store floor. [Photo Credit/Andy Tullis - The Bulletin.]

Independent Food and Grocery Retailing USA: Guest Memo

A regular reader of Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM), who also happens to be an independent grocer in the USA, sent us an e-mail note today saying he enjoys when we write about independent food and grocery retailing and independent grocers, commenting in his note that he wished more publications would write about his fellow independents, which are an important segment of food and grocery retailing, be they discount grocers, upscale grocers or natural and specialty foods retailers.

Our independent grocer-reader included a link to a story published in today's Bend, Oregon-based The Bulletin, the daily newspaper of record for the Central Oregon region in the Pacific Northwest USA region.

The story, by staff writer Andrew Moore, is about a local Central Oregon four-store independent grocer, Erickson's Thriftway, and how the independent is not only surviving but doing well despite the bad economy and the strong competition in the market from big chains like Safeway, Fred Meyer (owned by Kroger Co.) and Albertsons, along with intense competition from other regional grocers.

The very first Erickson's Thriftway grocery store opened in downtown Bend, Oregon in 1915. Today the four-store operation is no longer owned by the founding Erickson family but rather by a partnership (privately-held) headed by Doug Schmidt, the managing partner for Erickson's Thriftway.

The four Erickson's Thriftway stores are neighborhood supermarkets, averaging about 20,000 -to- 25,000 square feet. But the grocer packs the stores with nearly as strong of a selection of products as supermarkets twice the size of the Erickson's Thriftway stores do, Doug Schmidt says in the The Bulletin story.

The piece in today's The Bulletin includes a Q&A interview by the writer with Erickson's Thriftway managing partner Doug Schmidt. The interview offers a nice look at just what and how one of the many independent grocery retailing companies in the U.S. is dealing with the current recession and intense competition from mega-chains on its home turf.

We enjoyed reading the story, thank our independent grocer-regular reader for passing it on, and decided to run a link to the story below because we think it will be of interest to Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) readers.

The story:

A grocery chain with local roots
The first of the Erickson's stores was established in 1915

By Andrew Moore / The Bulletin February 10, 2009

Doug Schmidt is the managing partner of the Erickson’s Thriftway grocery store chain in Central Oregon, a chain that traces its roots back to its first store opening in downtown Bend in 1915.

Though the four-store chain is no longer owned by the original Erickson family, Schmidt sees to it that the name still stands for service.

"There have been lots of changes in the supermarket business, but it’s no different from other businesses: Take care of your customers and your customers take care of you," said Schmidt.

[Click here to read the full story.]

No comments: