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Food City Differentiates As Hispanic Grocer

Food City
From left, Eduardo Hernandez, meat manager; Kenneth Duesman, assistant store manager; Crystal Garcia, store manager; and Jose Garcia, produce manager.

Tom Duesman began operations at Food City in the Diamond Hill neighborhood of Fort Worth, Texas in 2021. By then, the country was nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But every community still needs to eat, and he saw it as an opportunity when he acquired the store. 

This is the first grocery store Duesman has owned, but he’s been in the industry since 1979. This has included leadership positions at Albertsons Companies, H-E-B and others. 

Food City caters more to Hispanic shoppers, which is what drew Duesman to purchasing the store. He said this where they can differentiate themselves when compared to the larger chains in his area. 

“If there’s any loyalty in the grocery industry, Hispanic is it and they’re still very ingredient driven. By ingredient driven, (I mean) they still cook at home,” he said. “So, we’re able to get some of those products that they can’t get at a Walmart or Kroger and keep them in stock at a fair price. And it gives us a little bit of an edge. So that’s kind of why we looked at that Hispanic store for our first store.”

In terms of relevant competition, there is an El Rancho nearby, which he said is one of the “best” Hispanic grocers in the region. And there is also a Fiesta Mart close by. 

Focus on fresh

When new ownership took over, the first thing Duesman’s team did was knock down some grocery aisles and expand on fresh offerings, and they’re going to continue to do that. 

“We have plans to knock out a couple of grocery aisles and still have plenty of dry grocery. An example is we have 48 or 60 feet of dog food and pet food. We don’t need that in a Hispanic store,” he said. “We can take that out and put more relevant items in there and expand on fresh items.”

He feels they can pick up more in percentage of sales for produce.  

“Our produce sales are up over 40 percent. If you take inflation out, that’s still over 30 percent from last year and we feel like we can still get another 10 or 15 percent to grow in that department,” he said.

Duesman would like to see the bakery and taqueria expanded, as well. 

With supply chain being a factor, especially with Gatorade orders coming in short, Food City adapted and provided Suerox (No. 1 non-calorie hydration beverage in Mexico). 

It has added a lottery and wire transfer services. The latter is a draw for the Hispanic community.

“We’ve never had it before and it’s been slow getting going but we’re getting more wire transfers…We’ve got more wire transfers in the week, lottery’s picking up. So, it’s been a slower process than I wanted, but it is starting to pick up.” 

The store also has expanded its print ad distribution, which they do Spanish first. 

Establishing a web presence

There is a goal to create a web presence as the Food City store never had a website. It has a Facebook page where it also shares the circular ads. 

“We’re really focused on getting (the website) done this year in the next six months,” Duesman said.

Finishing the website has been moving slower than he wants, though, because of hinderances caused by labor shortages. 

“We’ve strategically given money where we needed to keep our core management team in place. So, we’ve been very blessed to be able to keep our core management team in place from our perimeter managers to our store manager,” he said.

Duesman said they are facing a “huge” turnover with cashiers and some turnover at the taqueria, too.

“We’ve kept the core taqueria group, but the ones that make the tortillas and then some of them do some of the other things. We’ve had some turnover there,” he said.

Duesman is helping stock shelves, package tortillas and cut meat, among other things. He said they sell $1,000 worth of fresh-made tortillas daily. They could double that sales amount if they had the staff to make them. 

“It helped build that camaraderie from me coming in as an owner,” Duesman said about helping on the store floor,” he said. “So, we use it as a positive, but it was definitely not something that I foresaw when I bought the store.”

Embracing Diamond Hill

Duesman said they are placing more of an emphasis on Food City as a neighborhood grocer in Diamond Hill. 

“We put Diamond Hill out on the exterior of the building, we repainted the exterior of the building and just cleaned it up and started really focusing on Diamond Hill, because there’s so much pride in this Diamond Hill neighborhood,” he said.

“There’s generations that have grown up here. And I’ve got customers coming in that are 40 years old, 20 years old, saying, ‘Hey, I grew up in this neighborhood… we still come shop at your store when we come back. Because we grew up in the store.’ So, we’ve really tried to capitalize on that emotion. Again, if you tie your brand with what’s emotional… that’s a win.” 

For more information, visit facebook.com/foodcityfortworth.

To read more Market Profiles from The Shelby Report, click here.

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