Foods, feistiness sustain Holiday Market upswing

Articles
August 17, 2009

Foods, feistiness sustain Holiday Market upswing

Obsessions are the stuff of feature films and police dramas. However, in Canton, Michigan, 20 miles west of Detroit, there’s a 50,000-square-foot Holiday Market that’s obsessive about international foods. Because of it, residents eat healthfully despite economic challenges in their region.

Obsessions are the stuff of feature films and police dramas. However, in Canton, Michigan, 20 miles west of Detroit, there’s a 50,000-square-foot Holiday Market that’s obsessive about international foods. Because of it, residents eat healthfully despite economic challenges in their region.

Thank the food obsessions of co-owners John and Lisa Pardington, who built the store here 10 years ago and claim they have never posted a sales week lower than the identical period a year earlier. With two Krogers, a Walmart and a Meijer nearby, it is Holiday Market’s artful mix of global foods, unstinting quality in perishables, fair prices and personalization that drives steady growth. 

Although Mr. Pardington declined to cite the store’s volume (“Walmart would love to bury me, but I come from a long line of English fighters”), he sets the tone for customer satisfaction that people can’t get from a big-box greeter. Two recent examples: A shopper wanted only a couple of hot dogs; he broke the package for her and had the rest cooked in the back for the staff. He broke a celery stack in half for a shopper, and immediately another came by and asked for the remaining half.

“Ladies in their 70s tell me, ‘My doctor says I have to start drinking red wine to help control cholesterol.’ We’re selling a lifestyle that revolves around great foods from the Earth, grown in the ground, that’s as tasty to me as a McDonald’s burger, but is a helluva lot better,” says Mr. Pardington.

“My mission isn’t to sell Corn Flakes cheaper than Walmart, but to have customers say, ‘Gee, John, that was the best steak and a great bottle of wine.’ People love the Mediterranean diet. Eating sun-dried tomatoes with smoked salmon, goat cheese and olive oil is a lot healthier than eating Cheez Whiz and fast food.”  

He goes about this with gusto:
•    4,000 facings of wine, including first-growth Bordeaux and the state’s top wine steward (The Pardingtons travel to France each year and buy Bordeaux futures.)
•    Organic pastas from Italy
•    52 types of green coffee beans from the reaches of Jamaica, Africa, Indonesia and Costa Rica
•    1,000 different beers
•    Over 500 cheeses
•    100 different bulk spices in the Marco Polo section
•    Teas from South India at 75 cents to $3.25 per ounce, vs. $5 to $20 elsewhere
•    Peanut roaster, 5 kinds of fresh-ground nut butters
•    Two 55-gallon drums of first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil from the Isle of Crete, with a pump on top. Coming soon, a drum from Italy.
•    50 different olives in a self-serve bar
•    Brick oven with a 4,000-pound rotating hearth to make good quality bread
•    Scratch bakery
•    Sushi bar
•    Godiva chocolates at 15% off everyday

No food snob, Mr. Pardington says “you don’t have to be Donald Trump to shop here. Our customers are everyday, hard-working people.” He delivers to their tamer tastes too:
•    Ground beef $1.99 per pound, ground in the store  (He credits wholesaler Spartan Stores mightily for top-of-line meats, grocery and frozens, plus marketing and technology expertise. “We knew shoppers would trade down, so we asked Spartan for a deal on chuck sections that would allow us to run EDLP on chuck for the next year.”) 
•    “Our meats, pork and lamb are not injected with a 15% saline solution, which chain stores do to show price.  I don’t want half your meat evaporating in the pan,” he adds.
•    60 ft. of certified premium hand-cut beef (“We can trim it, butterfly it….”)
•    48 ft. of fresh seafood, including Copper River sockeye salmon
•    Smokes its own meats, sausages, fish
•    The store’s own trucks buy fresh produce from The Terminal five to six mornings per week
•    The store hires Culinary Institute of America graduates to prepare foods

Wouldn’t you love to accidentally be locked in this store overnight?