Locally Owned Stores

First and  foremost I want to start by saying that this post is intending to put a positive light on smaller locally owned stores not put a negative light on larger retailers.

Now with that out of the way I want to tell you about my grocery and food shopping habits which have changed tremendously over the last 20 years.

There are so many options out there for us as consumers that sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.

I work as a Bakery Manager in a relatively smaller grocery store considering the mega grocery store options in our county such as Tops, Wegmans, and Super Walmart.

Recently there was an article in our local newspaper featuring our store, Caledonia Marketplace, which focused on the changes that have been happening in the store as well as changes that will be coming in the next few months. Exciting changes for us as employees and to you the consumer.

I bring this article up because some of the comments have been extremely positive about our changes but some comments still make it clear that shopping at a smaller retailer is cost prohibitive.

The reputation of a smaller store is that it just can’t compete with the “Big Boys.” That goes for any type of retail store whether it is an appliance store, furniture store, hardware store, etc. The mentality of many general consumers seems to lean towards one-stop shopping.

When Walmart came up with adding grocery to their already mega stores I was honestly stunned. I couldn’t imagine such a thing. In fact, I still can’t wrap my head around why you would want to get your clothes, garden shovels, baby bottles and bicycle pumps from the same place you get your ground beef and chicken breast?

Why does everyone want one-stop shopping? Are we getting lazy? Are we spending too much time on our phones and computers? Have we lost the desire to connect with our local community by shopping at our own town’s stores? Would we rather stand in line at a mega box store and then come home and sit in our recliners and not have any social interaction with our neighbors?

“The prices are too high at the local stores, I am on a fixed budget,” you say. Yep there is that. Just about everyone is on a fixed budget. I was curious to see if that was really true in our store’s case. Was it really more expensive to shop at our local grocery store?

This past Saturday I grocery shopped at the store I work for, for my weekly groceries. Obviously it is convenient for me because I work there. I purchased a wide range of products from snacks like chips and dips to produce, dairy, meats and bakery items. The total was $96.44. I used the same receipt and priced checked on-line using the Geneseo Wegmans grocery store as my model. Yes, most general grocery items were more expensive at our store than Wegmans but wait, there’s more. Produce was almost even in price between the two stores but meat and bakery departments in our store won hands down. The result? The same products if I had purchased them at Wegmans would have cost me $100.93. That’s a little over $5 more than my little grocery store.

Yes the big stores are cheaper when it comes to grocery items because they have better buying power than small independently owned grocery stores but in general the surrounding departments like Deli, Bakery, Meat and Produce offer cheaper prices in the smaller stores. So I guess if you are only purchasing say a bag of chips your experience would be that our store was more expensive. However, buying a large amount of items from a smaller store proves that you might come out the same or even beat the prices against a larger retailer.

I am not advocating for buying everything your family needs at one store though. I think you do yourself a great disservice by doing the one-stop shopping thing. I would never buy items like detergents, toilet paper, paper products, diapers or cleaning supplies at a grocery store unless it was a really great sale and I had a coupon. For me I have found the best prices on these items have been at dollar stores, pharmacies like Walgreens with their savings cards and most often I use Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program.

I, as a consumer also frequent farmers markets, farm stands, bulk food ingredient stores run by local retailers and sometimes we will stop at mom and pop butcher shops on our weekend travels or head into the city to go to a local Italian bakery or Deli.

I know that everyone is different in how and where they shop, their schedules and lifestyles at home, their knowledge of cooking baking and growing their own food and financial situations.

I have to say I completely understand that money is almost always the central issue in your buying habits and wouldn’t it be nice if it wasn’t? I just ask that you give the little guy a second look. Traveling down the road a mile to your local hardware store instead of heading into the city to go to a major chain retailer might save you $5 but how much did the gas and time cost to get you there? And who knows, you might even run into a long time friend you haven’t seen in ages. -MM

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