By the end of August, Ripon's largest grocery store will not be a Pick 'n Save.
Rather, it will be known by a much more local name: "Webster's Marketplace."
Precipitated by the sale of Roundy's Inc. to Kroger Co. late last year, the store at 1188 W. Fond du Lac St. will lose its "Pick 'n Save" moniker, which was owned by Roundy's.
Also as part of the switch, the store will drop its affiliation with Roundy's and source its products through SuperValu.
"It was mutual," store owner Candie (Webster) Baker said whether her family or Roundy's initiated the change.
The news was announced Monday evening to employees in a series of meetings, and then publicly via press release.
Ripon's store was in a unique position.
Over time, Roundy's had acquired every Pick 'n Save location- save one: Ripon's.
This has been a point of pride for the Webster family, which has run the store for nearly three decades.
But, as Baker pointed out, it couldn't remain an independently owned Pick 'n Save.
"With the sale of Roundy's to Kroger, our business model as a single store operating independent is getting further and further away from Kroger and their nationwide corporation," she said.
When asked if the decision to switch was difficult after a long relationship with the Roundy's brand, Baker approached the issue from a different angle.
"We're actually very excited for this choice," she said. "It gives us more flexibility and a chance to market our own store and the uniqueness you can find here ...
"We just needed the supplier that could best serve our store and our volume, and who would best fit our customers."
SuperValu, Baker explained, offers strong support to independent grocers.
"SuperValu has a very strong tradition of servicing independents," she said, noting that stores serviced by SuperValu include Festival Foods and a popular northern-Wisconsin small chain, Trigs. "They have a long-standing tradition of servicing independent, Wisconsin grocers very well."
According to SuperValu's website, "The independent retail grocer is the cornerstone of SuperValu's industry-leading distribution business, which serves a broad range of entrepreneurs ranging from single neighborhood stores to small and large, regional multi-store locations."
Ripon, meanwhile, now will be serviced by two grocery stores utilizing SuperValu products.
Ripon's downtown grocery store, Market Fresh, also sources its products through SuperValu.
Baker, however, emphasized that working with SuperValu made the most sense for her store's customers.
"We met with other wholesalers and felt our best fit at this time was with SuperValu," she said, later adding, "[The switch] should enhance our product selection."
Besides, she explained, the focus in Webster's Marketplace will be on in-house offerings, rather than what the company can provide.
"We decided to go with a locally named and branded business because of the strong tradition my parents had in this area," Baker said, referring to parents Rob and Kathy Webster, who owned and ran the store for more than 20 years. "We want to highlight our local items: our Webster's in-store smokehouse, our in-store florist, our bakery and our deli, our custom photo shop. And when you are part of that big marketing group like Pick 'n Save, those uniquenesses like our one store get lost."
Such hometown qualities will be highlighted by various changes that will occur in-house over the summer.
"We will be changing the decor of the store, Baker said. "Some of it's still in the planning process, but we want to enhance the hometown, local-market feel."
New registers will arrive, and new marketing will follow.
Coupon-cutting, for instance, will be a thing of the past at the store.
"During the transition and after we become Webster's Marketplace, we will be writing our own ad, and we are excited to keep a simple focus and a low price for all customers' philosophy," Baker said, "so there won't be a need to cut coupons."
Arguably the biggest change customers will notice is a switch in store brands, from Roundy's-branded items to SuperValu's private label, Everyday Essentials. "Th ey ' r e very comparable," Baker said.
Meanwhile, she doesn't expect product prices to change much.
"No; in fact, we plan to do a study to make sure all of our prices are competitive prior to the switch," she said.
That change will begin in early July.
"After we get through 4th of July holiday, that's when customers will start to see us transitioning the private label ... brand," Baker said. "Near the end of July and August, we will begin the decor transition, and our plan is for the week of Aug. 15 to have the register transition. Therefore, by the end of August, the transition will be complete."
Though the Webster family has run the local store independently all along, Baker said that separating from the Pick 'n Save brand will enable her store to be even more flexible.
"As an independent retailer, the sky is the limit. We can decide, in essence, whatever we want to do," she said. "It's exciting; we're very excited for it."
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