Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

Grocery Outlet to open in Cheney

 

Last updated 11/20/2019 at 3:10pm

Three years ago, Duran Slater and Cassie McManus had never even heard of Grocery Outlet.

Now, the couple is the owner/operator of one of the chain’s newest branches set to open Nov. 21 on 1st Street in Cheney.

The store, not far from Safeway, Bi-Mart and Yoke’s Fresh Market stores, is smallish for a Grocery Outlet, but Slater said it has plenty of room to carry the franchise’s signature goods — which are tailored to fit the communities the outlets are in. Cheney’s store is about 11,000 square feet — with 13,000 square feet being the average, and will employ between 20 – 30 people.

“We’ll have room for a lot of products,” Slater said.

A veteran of the retail grocery business, Slater worked his way up from box boy to store manager at an Asian market chain in Seattle over 15 years before leaving for a position at Frito Lay. There, a co-worker introduced him to Grocery Outlet, how it worked and how it had benefitted his mother — who owned stores in Skyway and Renton.

About that time, McManus was similarly introduced to the franchise while visiting a friend in Central California. The former school teacher said she couldn’t believe the variety of items available, including items she couldn’t find anywhere else.

The couple talked about looking into the franchise, went online to Grocery Outlet’s website, applied and began their recruitment process.

“We were in training,” McManus said. “The whole process took about two months.”

One of the things they liked about Grocery Outlet was being able to be an independent contractor without having to lay out a huge amount of money to do so. They also liked the firm’s “unique corporate model,” which allows owners to tailor their merchandise to the local clientele while also providing merchandise at inexpensive prices.

According to its website, Grocery Outlet began in 1946 as a military surplus store, Cannery Sales, in San Francisco. It has expanded in size and product offerings since, and today has over 300 locations.

The model begins with brands contacting Grocery Outlet buyers whenever they have excess product or are undergoing packaging changes. The buyers purchase these products at “pennies on the dollar” and then offer them to customers at reduced prices.

Local store owners can choose which products their customers like and stock accordingly. Slater said owners also conduct product survey’s to find out what other items customers might be looking to purchase.

Forty percent of Grocery Outlet franchises are like traditional grocery stores, with bakery, dairy, meats, produce and other basics. The rest is made up of what Slater called “opportunistic buys.”

“About 60 percent of the store will be different,” he said. “It’s the secret sauce of Grocery Outlet.”

Slater and McManus got their training managing a Grocery Outlet in Modesto, Calif. for about two and half years. When it was announced a new store would be built in Cheney, the couple did their research, put together a business plan, bid for the location and were rewarded with the franchise.

McManus has family in Seattle while Slater comes from the Flathead area of Montana, so locating in Cheney with their young daughter put them in the middle. They also liked the small-town feel of the community and its proximity to a larger city.

“Seems like the town is really on board,” Slater said. “I feel like my wife and I are walking into a good situation.”

Slater said they aren’t in competition with other grocery stores in Cheney, but because of their business model hope to fill a niche the other stores might not be able to do. The retail veteran said the fact that Grocery Outlet is here shows the city is growing in positive ways.

“Hopefully us opening means more residents’ money stays in Cheney,” Slater said. “You want more options for people. It’s good for Cheney.”

Cheney’s Grocery Outlet will be open 7 a.m. – 9 p.m., seven days a week. The Nov. 21 grand opening will include giveaways of store coupons and gift cards. There will also be the chance to win a year’s worth of groceries – with the drawing taking place four weeks after the opening.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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