POSTED: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - 4:32pm
UPDATED: Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 2:53am
TYLER — No matter where you look, the signs of tight economic times are all. Some businesses have failed. But one hometown store has made it through this recession and others as well. And now, they're sharing their secret of success.
If you live in east texas, you know the brand. But, it's taken decades for Brookshire's Grocery Company to grow into an east texas staple.
You may not realize it when you stand in that checkout line and hear that cash register ringing, but, the grocery business is a tough line of work.
Profit margins are small and most stores make a penny on every dollar.
"In these recessions, people are looking for value at the grocery store," says Brookshire's CEO Rick Rayford.
Brookshire's Grocery Company made cut backs of their own. But Rayford told me having hardly any inflation helped this food industry this time a round.
"We dropped prices a year ago and we didn't say a lot about that," Rayford said.
The recession may have even brought in a little more business.
"More and more people are eating at home, eating out less, and that's good for us," he said.
But Rayford says success at the business started at in 1928. The oldest part of their recipe for success Brookshire's friendly atmosphere. It includes no conveyor belts at checkout time.
"Carrying groceries out to the car, not a lot of people do that anymore," Rayford said.
Another ingredient on shelves, Brookshire's own store brands.
"We give customers options: a prize fighter, if you would, a national brand equivalent, and then the organics and the upper end products as well," he said.
They've had those for decades, stocked by the same employees who've worked there for years.
"Most of our employees start at the bottom and work their way up," he said.
Rayford started as a teen, working part-time at a warehouse.
But checking out of a Brookshire's store is just the half of it. The other half, you don't see unless you go somewhere else. Super One grocery store —that's Brookshires too.
"It gives us a chance to offer products at a lower price because there's no carrying out the groceries. We don't have the variety that we do in a Brookshires' store," Rayford said.
The Brookshire's formula is now working in four states with stores spanning to Jackson, Mississippi.
But competitor, Wal-Mart, is right around the corner of most stores.
"It's good to have competition. We'd prefer not to have as much as we do," Rayford said.
He says there's no vision to change the company into a one stop shop like Wal-Mart but says expanding products isn't a bad thing.
Their next frontier: making ready to eat meals — affordable — think Whole Foods or HEB Central Market.
"We do have a new store planned in the future for Tyler that we think will be more along those lines. That offer the fresh concept better than we've seen in the past," Rayford says.
It's another in a line of new ideas.
"Things are moving so fast, if we don't stay up, you'll get behind and you can't catch up," he says.