It Worked for Me Series
Alpine, CA—Barons Market, a family-owned retail chain offering natural, organic and specialty products, once had a track record of opening one new location every few years. Recently, the tradition was broken with two new locations slated to open with 10 months of each other: its fifth location opened in Alpine, CA, in September and a sixth location (19,000 ft2) is planned to open this summer in Murrieta, CA. All this is incredible growth for Barons Market, opened just 12 years ago by Joe Shemirani in Point Loma, CA.
“We believe it’s important to keep challenging ourselves in order to grow,” said marketing manager Rachel Shemirani, and daughter of the store’s founder. “You need to stay uncomfortable and try something new.”
Expanding into a new community requires incredible forethought and planning. The Barons Market team decided to spread its wings in Alpine because the area only had one conventional store nearby and the town wanted more options.
Step one, says Shemirani, was to “take the pulse of the community, since different things are important to different communities. We really wanted to respond the community’s needs.”
To help with the store’s layout, Barons hired a retail interior designer, brought her to Alpine and drove with her around the small town for hours. “We wanted the store to be reflective of the town of Alpine in terms of its look and feel,” says Shemirani. “We wanted to connect the pieces and make the store a community hub.”
For example, they discovered that the community was very proud of its mountain village history, so Barons incorporated a lot of pine wood elements. “We have beautiful wood cutouts above the produce department that are handmade,” she states. “There are also these great burlap drums around the ceiling lights over the registers.”
A favorite feature of Shemirani is a ceiling runway colored in deep greens and tans to draw customers to its demo area. “It’s where everyone wants to be,” she states, noting that sampling is done for eight hours a day, seven days a week.
Also to connect to the community, Barons held a local job fair to fill positions and regularly supports the town however it can such as by making donations to the local schools.
Despite being busy with five locations (and one on the way), Barons Market continues its policy of the management tasting every product that lands on its shelves and reading every label. Says Shemirani, “Every week, 35 of us get together to try every sample we’ve received that week. It could be 80–120 items. Then for the products we like, we fiercely negotiate the price to give our shoppers the best deals we can.”
These elements combined will surely make Barons a key shopping destination for natural foods shoppers in Alpine.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2015 (online 12/22/14)