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Scolari’s Food And Drug Owner: ‘We Are Not The Normal Grocery’

Scolari's

Last updated on February 1st, 2021 at 01:34 pm

One of Scolari’s stores features strong gaming presence

by John McCurry / contributing writer

 

Jerry Scolari thinks increased grocery sales, propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue through the first part of 2021. He is co-owner of the two-store chain, Scolari’s Food and Drug, which he said has been up to the challenges presented over the past year.

“If you can’t make money in the grocery business now, you had better get out of it,” Scolari said. “I know this experience has been very tough on the employees, but they certainly have steady work. We have had some get sick, but fortunately, we have not lost anyone. At first, people were scared to death, but now we have learned that we just have to stay on track and make sure everyone takes it seriously.”

Scolari, COO, and his brother, Joey, CEO, run the company that operates stores in Sparks and Sun Valley, Nevada. Scolari’s has been selling stores in recent years, including six to Raley’s in 2018. The Sun Valley store includes a gaming area.

“The difference in Nevada is, we have legal gaming here,” Scolari explained. “At one of the locations, we shrunk the size of the grocery part of the store and went into more of the gaming business…we are not the normal grocery.”

The grocery side is 20,000 square feet of space that includes  basic departments such as meat and produce.

“My family has been in the grocery business for over 60 years, starting in California,” Scolari said. “My dad sold a store to Lucky’s, and we had some other small stores after that. We came up here in 1982, and between Nevada and California, we had about 21 stores. After about 2009, with the recession, we started gradually getting out of it some.”

Scolari’s currently has 61 employees, many of whom have been with the company a long time. One is retiring soon after 30 years.

“The demand for groceries during the pandemic has slowed a bit, because some customers are returning to the bigger stores now that they have all the products,” Scolari said. “But many still appreciate that we are close by.”

Issues with the supply chain continue. Ramen noodles have been hard to come by, as have certain types of pickles. Scolari’s is not able to carry as many varieties of liquid hand soaps and detergents as it once did. Clorox wipes are available part of the time. Cereals and other dry goods have been in good supply.

“With toilet paper, we had to go back and put limits on purchases again, as we had done earlier in the pandemic, because we recently had a surge of some customers purchasing large amounts,” Scolari said.

“There are increased demands for dairy products and other items that occur sporadically throughout the store, and occasional temporary shortages. There doesn’t always seem to be any logic to it.”

Yet the supply chain is improving.

“We are a lot fuller than we were,” Scolari said. “It does seem to be getting better all the time, but we never know what is going to happen next. We look at it differently now. We do our best to get what we can, but if we are shorted on some items by the manufacturers, we don’t panic. There is nothing we can really do about it but wait.”

Competition from large chains is an ongoing challenge.

“We try to stay in the ball game, but don’t try to stay in their lane,” he said. “There is no way to compete with the number of products that places like Kroger and Walmart are able to buy. We compete with the perishables. We try to be an alternative to the high-end stores.”

Scolari’s made the usual pandemic-related moves to ensure safety, including regular cart cleaning and installation of Plexiglass shields. The company also installed a bi-polar ionization system developed by CoolSys as a measure to clean the air in its Sun Valley location.

“Some of the changes we had to make for the pandemic will stay in place,” Scolari said. “It won’t go back completely to where we once were. People are going to expect the carts and baskets to be cleaned.”

 

Las Vegas’ location lessened supply woes; drone delivery soaring in state

Bryan Wachter, director of public and government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, is impressed with how the state’s grocers have navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. He said they have risen to the challenge, ensuring the safety of both employees and customers.

Scolaris
Bryan Wachter

“They have done the hard work required to be able to stay open and provide that service,” Wachter said. “They have utilized the shop from home technology for people who need or want that option. They have evolved into an e-commerce marketplace. Grocers have risen to the occasion to meet consumer demand.”

Wachter said some grocers in the state had supply chain hiccups early on, but overall they were able to keep most products stocked.

“There were very few times that products were not on shelves,” Wachter said.  “We are blessed with national grocers who have distribution centers in Nevada. Las Vegas provides a perfect corridor between Phoenix and Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. That helped us keep products available. The system became more efficient and straightened itself out.”

Wachter thinks the pandemic will produce long-term supply chain changes.

“Grocery retail has previously not been accustomed to keeping a ton of inventory on hand because of efficient truck delivery systems,” he said. “This is something you will see change in the future. This will be become more important as you see the increase of same-day delivery options for customers.

“We’ve seen retailers retooling the distribution centers during the pandemic to be able to accommodate the shop from home and home delivery process.”

Nevada has had a mask mandate since June. There is no civil penalty for an individual who refuses, but there are penalties for businesses that do not enforce the mandate. Wachter said that has been a constant struggle.

“Our members are doing all they can to provide that safe shopping environment,” he said. “They are enforcing the order within reason. There is no reason to place an employee in a physical confrontation or danger.”

The Nevada legislature was not in regular session during 2020, but it did hold a special session in July to address budget concerns.

The legislature also passed a bill that provided limited premise liability for businesses, including grocers, that are following local, state and federal guidelines. Wachter said that has allowed the association’s law-abiding members to know they should be able to survive the potential looming “legal tsunami.”

“There was a proposed bill last year that would have required anyone purchasing a grocery store to maintain the employment of any previous workers,” Wachter said. “There was another bill that would require unemployment insurance to be paid to any POS workers. We are expecting both of those to come back for consideration during the next session, which should convene in a month. These would be quite dramatic.”

Nevada also has become a center of drone research, with companies using the technology on a trial basis. Wachter noted that Walmart is delivering at-home COVID tests via drone.

“If you live within a one-mile radius, you can order a COVID test and a drone will drop it off in your driveway. You take the test, put it back in and off the drone goes with the competed test.”

Wachter predicts drone technology will accelerate within the grocery industry and likely will expand during an era that has placed more emphasis on home delivery.

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