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Sleeper’s Market Offers Something For Everyone In Caribou, ME

Sleeper's Store

Family-operated since 1914, Sleeper’s Market has had to continuously evolve its business to remain competitive and relevant. Located in Caribou, Maine, this 10,000-square-foot location is part grocery, part clothing store. And being close to the Canadian border means Sleeper’s caters to both American and Canadian customers. 

Founded by Joseph Sleeper Sr., the store is now operated by the family’s third generation, including grandson David, his brother Mark and cousin Joseph. 

Looking around Caribou and its surrounds, there are a few other grocery stores in the area, including a Hannaford, Shop ‘n Save, Save A Lot and Walmart, but there’s something special about Sleeper’s go-to-market strategy. Playing to a diverse mix of shoppers – ranging from eco-tourists and sporting enthusiasts to agricultural workers and a large elderly population – having a little something for everyone has been one of the keys to Sleeper’s success. It isn’t uncommon in this town of 8,000 to see snowmobilers, potato growers and locals shopping the aisles on any given day.

Sleeper's logo

“When a customer walks into Sleeper’s, we want them to have a feeling of walking into a small town store, while at the same time noticing that we have evolved with customers’ changing needs,” David Sleeper said. “We want them to feel appreciated. We feel it is an honor that they choose to spend their hard-earned money at our store given the vast choices they have.”

What makes Sleeper’s unique is its diverse product offerings that include groceries and premium outdoor apparel. 

“On the grocery side, the focus is on quality meats. We have three butchers who work for us, which allows us to offer personal butcher service seven days a week,” Sleeper said. “We pride ourselves in exceptional customer service, taking the time to cut the perfect steak or prepare a roast to a customer’s needs.”

The store also features an extensive local selection of produce and supports small farmers in the area by featuring their in-season fruits and vegetables. More recently, Sleeper’s began offering a curated collection of bourbons and whiskeys including hand-selected barrels of bourbon bottled specifically for the store. 

It also features a wide variety of specialty foods, including hundreds of ethnic food items. “When a customer needs a hard to find or unique item, Sleeper’s is top of mind of where to find it,” he said.

The area is home to a large number of residents 65 and older, so it is important to the Sleeper family that they offer items to meet their needs. To this end, they make sure there is always a large selection of fresh, made-in-house, to-go meals. It also wouldn’t be a Maine store without carrying fan-favorite lobsters. 

drawing of Sleeper's

“We carry one of the largest selections of jumbo Maine lobsters in the area, with two tanks of impressive two- to four-pound lobsters. People travel for up to an hour to pick up our lobster because of the quality we offer and the fact we cook them to order,” Sleeper said. 

“While our customers have other options on where to shop, many come for the nostalgic feeling of a hometown store where the owners and employees know your families and take pride in providing exceptional service,” Sleeper said. 

Being located in northern Maine presents its fair share of issues, some unique and others typical to other parts of the country, according to Sleeper. Attracting a labor force is a major issue, he noted, adding that fewer people are applying for jobs these days. 

“We are fortunate that many of our employees have worked here more than 20 years, know our customers well and look forward to providing personal service,” he said.

If he has one challenge it is finding enough unique items to attract customers and entice them to purchase more of their food needs while in-store. 

“For one customer, the attraction may be our fresh, made-from-scratch salads. And for another customer, it may be our extensive bourbon selection. Our job is to find enough of these items to attract a steady and growing customer base,” Sleeper said.

Russell Greenlaw, SVP of sales at Associated Grocers of New England (AGNE), referred to Sleeper’s as a “community staple,” noting the Sleeper family has embraced every new trend or change with creativity and an open mind. 

“Sleeper’s has aligned themselves to reflect the values of their customers. From their homemade pet food to top-tier work boots and attire, Sleeper’s Market embraces the Maine lifestyle and personalizes each customer’s experience with them,” Greenlaw said. “Appropriately featured and certainly exceptional, Sleeper’s exemplifies how an independent retailer can successfully differentiate themselves within Maine’s marketplace.

“Albeit a strong example, Sleeper’s is certainly not the only one. This magnitude of ingenuity, passion and care for others are deep-rooted tenets that all of Maine’s independents possess, and for that, Associated Grocers of New England could not be prouder.”

Read more market profile from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Carol Radice

Senior Content Creator

Carol joins The Shelby Report with more than 25 years writing for B2B magazines that cover the drugstore and supermarket industries. A Rutgers graduate, she earned her B.A. degree in journalism and mass communications more years ago than she cares to admit. She is thrilled to be working with such an accomplished team and to share her knowledge of the industry with Shelby’s readers.

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