Windsor indies team up to take on large chains

Joseph's Farm Market and M.R.
6/19/2015

Two independent food stores are teaming up to open their biggest combo store yet– 18,000-sq.-ft. in the middle of Windsor, Ont.’s south end retail district.

Joseph’s Farm Market and M. R. Meat Market expect to open their joint store along Walker Road at the end of July.

The stores are going head-to-head with some of the city’s biggest retailers, Costco and Real Canadian Superstore, located just a few minutes away.

“The idea is to help people wake up and ask, ‘Why pay more for the same item,’” M. R. Meat president Marc Romualdi told Canadian Grocer.

This will be the third joint store between the separately owned retailers, who have no other business relationship except doing joint buys for daily newspaper ads. The arrangement has “worked out beautifully for us,” Romualdi said. “We sell the meat and they sell the potatoes.”

For M. R. Meat the joint store, which has separate checkouts, is a hybrid between a traditional personalized meat shop and supemarket.

“Typically the old meat shop that you’d go to would have a deli counter and a guy standing behind it,” Romualdi said. “We don’t have that, it’s a lot more efficient, a lot more volume-based.” Romualdi says he buys up to 250,000 pounds of meat a week.

He sees a growing niche for stores because of price, quality and service, with a lot of floor staff to aid customers.

“My philosophy right now is that the chain stores, they’re not in the business of selling meat anymore,” he said. “It almost offends me to walk into a grocery store and see $20 a pound for T-bone steak, you know, and we’re offering it every day for $8.99 for the same quality.”

For 10 years Joseph’s Farm Market and M. R. Meat Market have shared buildings on the city’s longest east west commercial strip, Tecumseh Road, with stores at either end.

In the new store Joseph’s, because it sells produce, will have the bigger footprint, with about 11,000 sq. ft. versus 7,000 for M. R. Meat.

Co-owner Ken Joseph stressed the new store is not a boutique. “We’re a farmers market,” he said. “Boutique is kind of expensive, we’re kind of a run-of-the-mill store where you can expect to get deals, you know, a 10-foot pile of lettuce and then a 20-foot pile of cauliflower.”

Romualdi believes the store format could be expanded further. M. R. Meat plans to roll out of as many as 20 stores throughout southwestern Ontario, though a timeframe for such a rollout was not given.

The stores could have 4,000, 8,000, 10,000 and 12,000 sq. ft. footprints, the largest offering expanded cheese and bakery sections.

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