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Market Profile: Broulim’s Fresh Foods – ‘It’s Like A Family Working For This Company’

Zahrn Broulim's

Employee-owned retailer features ‘grocerant’ concept

by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer

Rigby, Idaho-based Broulim’s Fresh Foods has been in business for 98 years. The week after Labor Day was the company’s 98th anniversary.

Scott Zahrn, sales and operations manager, has been with the independent retailer for about two decades. During that time, he said the company has more than doubled in size, in terms of facilities and team members.

Zahrn Broulim's
Scott Zahrn

There are currently 10 stores – eight in southeastern Idaho and two in western Wyoming. Zahrn said they’re in the process of building No. 11.

“We’re constantly looking for areas to expand into to provide wherever we think that we can go in and enhance the offering into a community and be a good partner,” he said.

And Zahrn highlighted the standards that Broulim’s has for new stores, saying that upper management is active in the daily operations of the business.

“We kind of strictly like to stay in an area that we can get to a store and visit,” he explained. “We like to spend time in our stores, as a corporate management team.”

Another aspect that differentiates Broulim’s from many other retailers is that it’s employee-owned, which took effect in 2014.

“We feel it’s really helped our team to take more ownership when they come to work…I feel like it’s increased our morale,” Zahrn said.

“For me personally, I just love where I work. It’s like a family working for this company…there’s no place I’d rather work,” he said. “Nothing else I’d like to be a part of more than the vision and strategy that this company has moving forward into the future.”

And the company is on the trajectory to be around for more than a century, through COVID-19 and all.

Zahrn described Broulim’s as a value-oriented company centered on customer service and guest experience. And the concept caters toward new “grocerant” ideas – a grocery store mixed with a restaurant, with several dining options.

The lineup of ready-to-eat foods includes: a smoked meats section with carving bars; fresh salads and cut fruits; and a full-service sushi and Asian bar. Broulim’s also has a “Meals Made Simple” program to provide easy meal solutions – meals for one, two or four people that can be microwaved or cooked in the oven in 20 minutes or less.

“With the pandemic, we’ve of course stopped all the self-serve items in our store. So we’ve made a transition to really pushing these prepared meals that people can get,” Zahrn said. “They’re not self-serve, so they’re perfectly safe and ready for your family to eat without having to worry about any contamination or anything like that.”

And the stores straddle Idaho’s market for meat and potatoes and natural and specialty products.

“People now are eating healthier…a lot heavier on healthy foods concepts. We have natural foods sections within stores and also integrated throughout our facilities.”

As for Broulim’s employees, Zahrn said that it has been “all hands on deck.”

“We deployed our corporate office staff into the stores to help them put our freight on the shelves and make sure our guests were being taken care of all times of day and night,” he said.

After supply chain hurdles, the next challenge Broulim’s had to address was sanitation – keeping things safe from coronavirus.

“We require masks in all of our stores and of our team members,” he said. “That’s still in effect right now, unless you have a medical reason. For all of our team members, we check their temperatures daily before they report to work.”

Moving forward, Broulim’s is always looking for expansion opportunities, whether it’s fixing up a current store or acquiring/building a new one. And that’s one of the big things that Zahrn appreciates about the company.

“We’re always updating our facilities, which I really like,” he said. “We reinvest money back into work facilities through remodels and additions…but we also go through our stores and remodel and reinvest, whether it be refrigeration or décor.”

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