By Marshall Smith
New Village Market owner Jay McCormack knows groceries. And he knows turnarounds — taking an existing market and with careful analysis of its location’s demographics, building a business that caters to and suits the community.
McCormack is in Idyllwild for the long haul. “I have a 10-year lease with options for an additional 20,” he said. And he brings solid knowledge of the grocery industry, having helmed nine Rio Ranch Markets in Riverside County.
“I have done complete remodels and turnarounds within 60 to 90 days,” said McCormack. “We’re replacing the floor at Village Market starting on Monday, Feb. 20, with a commercial-grade, wood-looking laminated floor product.”
McCormack will revamp existing product lines, but slowly, and only after getting a better sense of what the community of Idyllwild wants and would value. “We want to be a company that’s involved in the community and that gives it a place where they’ll feel comfortable and find quality, main-line products at reasonable prices,” said McCormack.
“Grocery stores are always a work in progress. If you don’t innovate, you close. It will take us some time to get our pricing set. I imagine we’ll have a grand opening within about 90 days.”
Rather than announce product lines at this point in time, McCormack said that would occur after getting a better idea of what the community wants. One thing they will be offering is a line of organic products, the scope of which is still to be determined. “I think within 30 days we’ll have a good idea of what our future plans will be. We’re going to try to help move some of the products that Sky Island had when it closed.”
McCormack knows marketing. When he opened Rio Ranch Market in Twentynine Palms, he was competing with a new Stater Bros. market many times the square footage of his store. But within a short time, having researched the community and its food needs, McCormack had tripled his store’s income and was soon doing a third of the business the much larger Stater Bros. was doing.
“We’re here to take care of the community,” he stressed. In short, McCormack and his family will be upgrading market products, dining and customer services. “We’ll be announcing our specific plans as they unfold.”
Rio Ranch Market was founded in 1983 and eventually grew to nine locations — three in San Bernardino, and single stores in Riverside, Chino, Twentynine Palms, Banning, Yucaipa and Highland, with a marketing plan geared to appeal to the growing Latino community, as well as the general population. McCormack has served as chairman of the California Grocers Association Board of Directors.
In Perris, McCormack partnered with the city’s Redevelopment Agency, spending $2 million to gut the prospective store’s interior and remodel the inside. City officials worked with the company and provided redevelopment funds to pay for parking lot, exterior lighting and façade improvements to the mall that the supermarket would anchor.
Rio Ranch’s marketing approach has been to position their stores as strong price competitors, matching Stater Bros. and Food 4 Less on main-line items, and with more aggressive and attractive prices on perishables. McCormack cautioned that he may not be able to duplicate the pricing models of off-Hill stores because he still has to pay to have it trucked up the Hill, but that his pricing, when determined, will be locally competitive and fair.