Indies thriving in metro Detroit

11/18/2011 10:09:00 AM
David Mitchell

Courtesy Nino Salvaggio International MarketplaceCustomers shop in the produce section at Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace’s St. Clair Shores, Mich., location. Despite the recession and a new Walmart Supercenter opening near one location, customer counts are up at all three of the retailer’s locations, said Joe Santoro, area supervisor and buyer.Independent retailers are a thing of the past in some U.S. cities, bought out or pushed aside by the growing wave of chain stores, super centers and club stores.

That’s not the case in the Detroit metro area, where independents continue to hold their own against regional chains such as Meijer Inc. and national brands such as Wal-Mart.

“A Walmart Supercenter went in next to one of our locations about two years ago,” said Joe Santoro, area supervisor and buyer for Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace, St. Clair Shores, Mich.

“What we thought was going to be something terrible actually turned out great. Our customer count went through the roof. It made us look better, and it increased our traffic flow. It’s one of the best things that happened to that store.”

Santoro said that despite the lingering recession, customer counts are up at all three of the retailer’s locations.

“They’re coming in and spending money, but each customer is spending a little bit less than they used to,” he said. “They’re going for something a little less expensive. The dollars per customer is down, but customer count is up.”

Factors for success

Vince Sciarrino, general manager for Vince & Joe’s Gourmet Market — which has stores in Shelby Township and Clinton Township — said a variety of factors contribute to the independents’ success.

“They’re all family-operated and all second generation,” he said. “The families have a passion, and the second generation has carried on that passion.”

The locally based retailers with two or three stores are also more flexible than chain stores, Sciarrino said.

“Chain stores have to have corporate meetings to make decisions and plan,” he said. “If we have something that comes up and is a great buy, our buyers call the store and we can do it. We can adjust at a minute’s notice to what’s available at the market. We can tear down a display and build something new.”

The “market” is the Detroit Produce Terminal. Sciarrino said the terminal, the city’s proximity to greenhouse product in Ontario and the wealth of local product available during Michigan’s growing season give the retailers access to quality product at competitive prices.

“The biggest tool we have is the produce terminal,” Santoro said. “The product that comes through our terminal is second to none in the entire country. Our customers demand good product. We give it to them, and we know how to display it. Our produce terminal allows independent retailers to do as well as we do.”


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Jerry    
Canton  |  November, 21, 2011 at 07:40 PM

This article talks about Spartan stores in the context of a chain, however Spartan also is a distributor and supporter to over 300 independent grocers in the state of Michigan. The independent stores are an intricate part of doing business for Spartan and are partners more so than competitors such as with Meijer and the other national chains.

Tony Liggett    
Hamtramck  |  December, 08, 2011 at 08:57 AM

Nice article, but it failed to highlight what I consider local grocers: the mom and pop stores that dot our neighborhoods. Kim's on Woodward in Detroit and Al Haramain, Fresh Valley and Polish Market in Hamtramck. All of these stores have a nice selection of fresh Eastern Market produce along with local and ethnic favorites.

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