Baur family specialty store known for its array of local offerings
by Mary Margaret Stewart / staff writer
In 2005, Bob Baur and his former business partner decided to open Toucan Market, a specialty natural grocer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. There was no other store like it in the area, so Baur left Albertsons after 30 years with the corporation.
“My father had the retail grocery experience, and [his former partner] had the marketing experience,” said Rob Baur, store director and son. “None of the banks would loan them the money separately, but together they would. So, if one can’t, two can. That’s kind of how the name came about.”
The men were in business together for four years before bringing aboard Rob, who had retail grocery and management experience with Albertsons in Las Cruces and then in Phoenix, Arizona.
Today, Toucan is owned by Bob and Joan Baur, his parents. He said they call the market “a crossover grocery store,” selling a little bit of everything – from organic and natural products to items that most grocers carry, like Cheerios and Froot Loops.
The market offers a full-service meat department for fresh fish and meat, a butcher block, produce department and bakery, where they make cakes. Baur likened the store to a Trader Joe’s.
“As a specialty store, what probably makes us the most different is all of the local products…we probably carry about 50 different products, SKU-wise,” he said.
The local offerings range from salsa, seasonings and sausages to produce, bread and coffee.
Looking back on 2020, Baur said the pandemic changed business completely.
“Unfortunately, it affected the restaurant business extremely in New Mexico. I know that’s been nationwide as well…I don’t think it’s going to ever be the same,” he said. “I think that got people thinking. I guess they were forced to change their eating habits and forced them to go back to making food at home more often, so it’s actually helped our business a lot.
“But it has changed the way we do things. In New Mexico, they’ve put mandates on quite a bit of different things. Sanitation has changed completely. We have to wear masks, day in-day out. We have to sanitize.
“They don’t specify how often we sanitize, but we sanitize every half hour. We go through and we wipe every cart down whenever it comes in, wipe all of the doors down every half hour. We wipe the registers down after every customer.
“That definitely has changed things quite a bit for us, probably for the better. I don’t know that it’s going to change in the future. I don’t know how relaxed we’re going to get on it…I guess I would relate it to the airlines. Pre-9/11, nobody was really checked. And now everybody’s checked. And that hasn’t changed.”
But all of the protocols wouldn’t have been possible without Toucan’s 37 associates, who Baur said have made him the proudest.
“They’ve been real consistent. They’ve done everything that we’ve asked them to under these circumstances,” he said. “I only had one associate quit because they were nervous or concerned about the virus.
“[The others] have hung in. They’ve stuck it out, thick and thin. And they’ve stepped up to the plate when they had to. I think that’s pretty impressive of them to continue to work, day in and day out, when they know how deadly the virus is.”
Moving forward, Baur said they’re always looking to the future with opportunities for another Toucan Market location, though COVID-19 slowed those plans.
“We’re definitely looking to expand – maybe a little bit smaller market. Right now, we’re at 16,000 square feet. We think we could do the same thing in a smaller footprint in a different location here in town,” he said.
“Besides that, we’re looking at buying new freezer cases, and we’re looking into buying new cheese island cases. That’s kind of what we’re looking to do if we can’t build another store – update the store just a little bit.”
Baur also wants Toucan to find more ways to do more for the community, too.
“Right now, we’re give out lunches every Saturday at 11 o’clock for the first 50 people that come through the store…trying to do something good for the community as well,” he said.