Renfroe’s Market, based in Montgomery, Alabama, focuses on providing great customer service. Rob Renfroe, VP of Renfroe’s Market, said that may sound cliché but it is one thing that sets the company apart.
“We still operate with the idea that each customer should be greeted when they enter the store, while shopping and upon checkout,” he said. “This means we will unload a customer’s cart when they arrive at the checkout and provide full carryout service to the customer’s vehicle if they so choose.”
Renfroe is the son of founder Robert Renfroe, who purchased what was then McGehee Road Super Foods in Montgomery in 1997. In 2008, the acquisition of Dadeville Foodland was completed but the banner was kept the same. The third location, Renfroe’s Foodland, was opened in October 2014 in the Eastchase area of Montgomery.
In 2016, the company rebranded and consolidated all banners to the current name of Renfroe’s Market. The fourth location, originally named Parkers Foodland in LaFayette, Alabama, was purchased in 2018 and converted to Renfroe’s Market.
Two new locations were added in 2020 to the Renfroe’s Market banner in Alexander City and Phenix City. The former was a backfill of a shuttered Sav A Lot, and the latter was an anchor tenant in a new construction development.
Most recently, in November 2022, the company opened its third Renfroe’s Market location in Montgomery, bringing the total number of stores to seven.
Rob Renfroe worked at the McGehee Road location in high school, but said he officially started his career in the grocery business in 2006, after graduating from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
He and his father ran the McGehee Road store until 2008, when the Dadeville purchase occured. At that time, Rob Renfroe became the store manager of the McGehee Road location and Robert ran the Dadeville site. Over the years, they have hired store managers and district managers to help in overseeing the business.
While supply chain challenges are becoming less of an issue, Renfroe said customers’ disposable income is tightening. “Therefore, we felt we needed to get back to the basics. We want to run our stores with the main focuses being on customer service, cleanliness and providing the best value to the customer,” he said.
“This is difficult at the present time due to the labor shortages, as it is putting a stress on our associates. We want to provide our customers with the best shopping experience they can find anywhere, but we are struggling with the lack of labor to accomplish it.”
Inflation also is impacting the business. Renfroe said it is making it difficult for customers to afford groceries and for businesses to be successful.
“The rising cost of everyday staple goods for customers puts a strain on their disposable income and is changing their buying patterns. We are seeing less business in our delis and a shift back to the center store, where the customers’ purchases will go further to filling their pantries.”
From a business standpoint, he said Renfroe’s Market has seen costs increase not only in retail products but also in expenses such as insurance, utilities and more that “make it difficult to produce a bottom line that lends itself to expansion and opportunities for employee advancement. We must be extremely diligent in monitoring and controlling expenses that we are able to affect, such as payroll and purchases.”
Renfroe’s Market tries to source local products and features a number of items on its shelves. Examples include Wickles Pickles, which was started in the same town as Renfroe’s Dadeville store; The Bearded Pickle Co.’s Psycho Pickles, which are made by a gentleman who worked in the McGehee Road store as a bagger in high school; and its own Renfroe’s Market branded salsas, jam, jellies, dressings, barbecue sauces and seasonings.
“We strive to be a starting point for products that are just getting off the ground in our local communities that need an outlet for their product,” Renfroe said. “We also pride ourselves on supporting long-established brands like Sister Schubert’s…Sister Schubert herself used to deliver to our McGehee Road location when she first started her business, as well as Millie Ray and Sons ready-to-bake goods.”
Renfroe’s Market offers Instacart in all of its location. Renfroe said it has been a welcome addition, as it helps customers who may not be able to make it to the store. The company also offers a mobile app providing a number of digital coupons each week, as well as push notifications about sales. It also offers a loyalty program as a way to thank customers, he said.
The company also believes in supporting local communities. In addition to donations to schools and charities, Renfroe said the Montgomery Area Food Bank “is an agency that we feel strongly about supporting.”
The food bank serves each county where Renfroe’s Market has stores, and the company has donated more than $50,000 in the past two years to the organization. The grocer also serves as the MAFB’s host location for its annual Summer Fund and Food Drive.
“The work they do is integral to the well-being of those with food insecurities, and we are privileged to be a part of their efforts,” Renfroe said. “Each December, we host WSFA12’s Day of Giving, where nonperishable food items, new toys and monetary donations can be made that again benefit the Montgomery Area Food Bank but also Toys for Tots and the Christmas Clearinghouse.”
When asked about his favorite part of being an independent grocer, Renfroe said it offers opportunities to problem solve like no other business.
“There is no guidebook, as there are countless ways to account for success. For me, it is knowing that Renfroe’s Market provides a safe, positive, friendly atmosphere in which to work and shop,” he said.
“Although the grocery business is extremely tough, with very little adoration, we can look back each day and know that we are providing a service to our local communities while being able to establish personal and long-lasting relationships with our customers as we serve them.”