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Tasteful Profiling

But Richard also wants to be sure that a more upscale customer base doesn't chase off his regulars, so he continues to cater to the local who saves up to buy a bottle of Crown Royal at the first of the month. "I want the working guy who's always come in here and bought a bottle of Country Club or a forty-ounce malt liquor," he says. "I have a loyalty to him."

Safeway takes a similar approach to its improved outlet: In addition to higher-end items, it's expanded its inventory to appeal to Hispanics moving into the community, as well as the African-Americans who helped keep the place afloat all those years. "In that store, for example, we put in a much larger selection of greens," Stroh says. There are also larger-sized canned goods and meat cut in smaller portions. "Hispanics tend to prefer thinner cuts of meat just because of the way they prepare it," he points out.

Sure, it sounds like racial profiling of the supermarket sort. But if that's what it takes to keep the neighborhood's diverse mix of bellies full, who's complaining? "That store is a community gathering place, and we want to maintain that," Stroh says. "On a sunny day it's kind of fun out in front of that store."

Richard agrees. "Everybody shops here," he says. "I have a friend who has a liquor store -- he thinks I'm crazy. He told me, 'Shut the doors on the forty-ouncers and get rid of them.' In the long run that's probably the thing to do, I'd make more money. But I have a loyalty to the neighborhood. I'm not going to do that."

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