Stater Bros. Markets held the grand opening of its new 45,712-s.f. store in the Norco Village Shopping Center in Norco, California, on Nov. 15, and The Shelby Report’s Bob Reeves, VP-West, was there.
The new store at 2430 River Road—in a newly constructed shopping center where it was the second retailer to open after a Starbucks, with more to come—replaced another River Road store that closed the night before. The newly built store is nearly 50 percent larger than the previous store, which was built in 1971, and has a number of added departments, such as freshly made sushi, fresh-cut produce, full-service floral department and full-service seafood.
Store Manager Aaron Ryan, a 24-year Stater Bros. veteran, told Reeves, “The community seems very happy and very pleased to have this caliber store here. They haven’t had anything like this in quite a while.”
The existing Norco store, in fact, was one of the San Bernardino-based grocer’s smallest stores.
“It didn’t have all we would like to offer this community,” Ryan said.
But with the new store, “as soon as you walk in the door, you can see our full floral station, which we did not have at the previous store. To the right we have a full-service sushi station, where sushi is cut fresh every day—something else we didn’t have at the previous store,” he said.
On opening day, Ryan observed that customers seemed happy about the sushi, which is one of the first things they see when walking into the store.
The full-service bakery offers artisan breads and rolls, specialty single-serve desserts, the Cleo & Leo line of classic cakes (named after company founders Cleo and Leo Stater) and in-house cake decorators to assist with special-occasion needs.
The service deli “is one of the upgraded ones that offers taco plates and a café seating area where our customers can sit and enjoy,” Ryan continued. “We’ve got outlets for their laptops or phones, and we offer free Wi-Fi so they can have a sit-down experience.”
The deli offers Cleo & Leo exclusive-recipe, fresh hand-breaded fried chicken, specialty sandwiches and wraps in addition to a full line of prepared party trays.
In the expanded produce department, “the first thing you see is our cut fruit section,” he said. “We cut fresh fruit daily, and every day we make fresh guacamole, which is something this area hasn’t really had in the past.”
Erika Skaar, Stater Bros. District 1 manager overseeing 22 stores (including Norco), said the fresh-cut fruit and guacamole cases have been featured in the company’s last few new stores and are being added in existing stores where they’re a good fit.
The fruit is available in single-serving containers as well as multi-serving platters for parties and other occasions.
On the other side of the fruit and guacamole case are to-go salads and steamed vegetables, the latter of which the store packs in house.
“We cut up the vegetables and put them in these bags, steam them and put a little seasoning in there; they’re grab-and-go steamed vegetables for dinner,” Skaar told The Shelby Report.
The produce department offers more than 1,000 items altogether, including an expanded number of organic options.
In the back of the store is the full-service meat department, “which is what made us famous in the first place,” Ryan said. “It’s got our new double-decker cases, so we have a lot more meat choices to offer our customers than in the past.”
Stater’s certified meat cutters serve customers at the meat case.
“We also have the full-service seafood department, which we did not have in our previous store. Customers seem really responsive to it,” he said.
Overall, “they’re amazed at the size and the look; this is our freshest-looking store that we have to date, really different than our older-style stores,” Ryan said. “We’ve really gone in a different direction, and they’re really amazed by it. They aren’t accustomed to having something that’s this big and this beautiful for them in their community, and they’re really excited about that.”
Ryan, who grew up in the Norco area, has been a store manager for 10 of his 24 years with Stater Bros. He managed one of the company’s stores in Riverside for six and a half years before being tapped to open the new Norco store.
“We are really big into cross-merchandising” in the new store, Skaar said.
In one case, seafood that is ready to pop into the microwave is cross-merchandised with produce-based side dishes like bacon-wrapped corn, stuffed peppers and bacon-wrapped asparagus. (The grocer sells a lot of bacon-wrapped corn, she said.) All news stores feature this station, Skaar said, and some current stores will have those added as well.
Lunchmeats and cheeses are right across from crackers, “again, trying to make it more convenient for our customers,” she said.
In addition, the store has put its own-brand eggs on their own endcap. Free-range eggs, organic eggs and other varieties share the space.
Wine, sparkling wine and beer are all available chilled at the new store.
“If people are going to a party, they want something cold, not something from the shelf that’s warm,” she said.
Craft beer also has a major presence, giving its current popularity. Skaar credited Stater Bros.’ vendors for “bringing us the latest and greatest.”
During the holiday season, the store is offering 40 percent off the purchase of six cartons, 30 percent off four.
Comfort and cost savings
The store has wider aisles, Skaar said, as a way to enhance the shopping experience.
“It was part of the plan, making it convenient for the customer,” she said. “With these wider aisles, it’s okay if a customer stands there looking; we still have room for other customers. I know the customers love these spacious, wide aisles.”
The store has energy-efficient LED lighting throughout, which is saving the store as much as 30 percent vs. regular costs, Skaar said, while accenting the products and giving the store a more modern feel.
“In stores we built prior to this one, we used to put skylights in, but we found that it is a better cost savings just to put the LED lights in; they don’t emit heat, either,” she said.
Glass doors on the store’s refrigerated cases also reduce energy consumption.
The store should have significant labor savings on its floor maintenance. Though the flooring cost more upfront, it doesn’t have to be waxed or buffed.
“We just have to have someone clean them every night—just one person. With the other floors, we’d have two to three people,” Skaar said. “It’s a win-win, and since we’ve installed these floors in a few of our stores, we haven’t had any slip-and-falls or customer accidents because of the way they’re made. They’re great floors, customers love them, they’re beautiful.”
In one of the store’s more unique features, the parking lot features a horse corral to accommodate Norco’s equestrian community.
The store added about 100 union jobs to the area, according to Stater Bros. The current River Road employees transferred to the new store.
“This new supermarket demonstrates Stater Bros. ongoing commitment to the Norco community we’ve served since 1971,” said Pete Van Helden, president and CEO of Stater Bros. Markets. “Throughout the years, our Norco customers have been amongst our most loyal and we are thrilled with the wide variety of services and new product offerings that we’re bringing to their community.”
Ryan says most of the other tenants in the new shopping center expect to be open by mid-December. These smaller retailers wanted the supermarket to be open before they opened.
See more photos from the new store here.