By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
At a time when many independent grocery stores are going out of business, Barons Market continues to grow, with another location opening in Otay Ranch this winter. Its North Park location opened in 2016 and Uptown News was recently given a tour of the specialty grocery store to learn how it has thrived amid fierce competition.
Senior Vice President Rachel Shemirani shared that her father and uncle founded the store in 1993 as an alternative to expensive Whole Foods. Since then, they have kept stocking organic and locally-sourced foods for as cheap as they can sell them.
Shemirani said the company’s No. 1 goal is to give customers a 15-minute shopping experience. The grocery store’s footprint is far smaller than a Vons or an Albertson’s and they also stock less than 10,000 products, compared to up to 60,000 at those larger stores. With lots of hot foods offered and customers coming in multiple times a week for small loads, the business model is more similar to European markets than U.S. superstores.
All of the products in the eight Barons Market stores are hand-selected at a weekly tasting committee where they test 80-100 products. Instead of the customer choosing between multiple pasta sauces, the executives, managers, and chefs at the meeting make sure they are only stocking one type of sauce they know is the best.
In addition to these weekly product additions ensuring the company has the latest trends in products, they are also able to get rid of ideas that are not working. For each five or six items added, they aim to discontinue 15. Inside the small North Park store, there is an oil and vinegar tasting section, an olive bar, and a cookie bar that were all meant to be temporary but became so popular they never went away.
A kitchen in the back gives out samples of food that are made in front of the customer, not in a microwave, so people can easily reproduce it at home.
Barons Market cultivates a relationship with the community and intentionally gives back, partially through their quarterly beer-tasting events.
“When your neighbor thrives, it’s good for everyone,” Shemirani said.
The grocery store will be holding its next Barons Backroom Beer Pairing on Oct. 16 from 6-8 p.m. in partnership with Modern Times Beer. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event benefit Susan G. Komen. Tickets are $15.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at email@example.com.