Saturday, February 20, 2010

Independent Grocers Rock My World

It was a gorgeous week to be outside. Sunshine and love filled my heart as I pulled away from my studio and made a road trip through Umatilla County to do some research just for you.

A little bit of information at my first stop led me to make other stops along the route. Each step taking me closer to finding out the real story. Now, I’d like to consider myself some sort of super-sluth, but honestly I’m more of a Barney Fife than a Sherlock Holmes.

A few weeks ago I wrote a rather scathing article about a local establishment that served grocery store wine. I guess that this hit home in more establishments than I thought it would. While eating lunch I was told by the proprietor that they were struggling to keep up their wine list so that they wouldn’t have store level wines on the shelves. However, they shared with me that there were stores now in the area carrying high-end wines on their shelves “at good prices”.

Leaving there, I drove to one establishment or store after another. In each of those seven instances of my stopping, I met someone that I knew from my wine business work in the area. Each of those persons independently, and I swear, without prompting, told me that they were totally impressed with the wine selection at one particular store.

Eventually, I just had to stop and see for myself. Well…I drove up to Fiesta Grocery in Hermiston, and I thought I had gone to the circus or something! The place is bright. I mean really bright! Colors so vivid on the walls that there was no way I was going to miss it.

I’m not new to this Grocery Store. We have a sister store in Pasco, where I love to shop for produce and meat. They also have a fantastic Mexican deli and fresh baked goods that are always a hit.

Today, I wasn’t shopping for any of those things. However, it was really hard to walk past the big jar of fresh Horchata. I made a straight bee-line for the wine shelf. All the while thinking that the world was upside down, because… I’m headed for a wine shelf in a Mexican grocery store!

When I did get to the wine isle, I was amazed, surprised, shocked, and even awed! I couldn’t believe the selection of wines that the store had to offer. No, there isn’t a huge number of wines. What you’ll find is that the wines are of high quality and of very high value.

Wine selections ranged from Woodward Canyon Nelms Road to Forgeron. And the prices were amazing. Gascon Malbec for under $12 was a perfect example of the dozens of bottle prices that were shockingly low.

So, what is the moral of the story? It is that independent grocers are awesome! They have the ability to sell and merchandise items at the prices that they choose at a store level. Someone in “Hucksterville” Minnesota isn’t forcing down prices and store set decisions in Pendleton or Hermiston. Store level decision makers create a consumer friendly environment where you can get what you want for an exceptional price.

I want to end with a big thank you to the independent grocers of the region. Thank you to Fiesta, the Red Apple in Umatilla, and Keglers in Boardman for your willingness to carry local wines made right here at home. Keep up the good work!

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