Squished together in a small room, sitting around four long tables, Baron’s Market employees prepare for an afternoon of eating and drinking. Each Thursday for two hours, managers, buyers, chefs and front office employees meet together in a back room to taste potential new products. In this family-owned business, those present joke with each other, laugh whole-heartedly and discuss current events. Without knowing any of them, it's hard to distinguish which attendees are related and which have become family over the years.
Located in the back room of their flagship Point Loma store, the committee meets to determine which foods are best sellers, which need replacing and how to get the best pricing for their customers. Baron’s compares itself to larger chains like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s in its selling of natural, organic and high-quality, healthy products. As a four-chain store, however, their goal is not to compete in sales with the big brand names; instead it is to offer the same quality with a smaller inventory.
"Since we’re a smaller company in comparison to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, we’re able to work with more local farmers and local vendors, since these local companies are quite small and cannot handle larger accounts. We have the same concept as Trader Joe’s as far as delivering to the value to the customer but we’re different because we work with local vendors as much as possible," said President Joe Shemirani. "We’d love to expand and open more stores in the San Diego, Riverside and Orange County areas just as long as our expansion doesn’t sacrifice our family culture. We’re not willing to trade that for any amount of money."
With this strategy, Shemirani began integrating weekly taste testings to ensure that his stores were offering the greatest in taste, quality and price. Looking for only the best in the market, everything goes through this committee first. And they know their inventory.
The tastings are set up around the room with numbers on each item. Those items are listed down on multiple pages for note taking and are broken down by brand, product name, size, taste, and price. There is also room for comments and final thoughts. During the tastings, specific comparisons can be heard about each item and discussions ensue as they cite current items on their shelves.
After all the eating and drinking is complete, the team gathers around the tables to either add the new products or pass on them. A smiling and witty Shemirani begins the deliberations while attendees delivered their opinions, prices are discussed and hands are raised to vote the item in with a yes or no. This level of commitment to their store demonstrates how faithful those behind the Baron’s name are to bringing their shoppers an unparalleled shopping experience.
Throughout the store, the aisles and setup has been specifically designed with their customers in mind. While the gluten-free diet trend seems to be the local craze, Baron’s realizes that many people with Celiac disease have a harder time navigating each product to find which they can consume. Because of this, the store has dedicated a whole section solely to their gluten-free products, making it more convenient for the GF-buyer.
Their wine and beer selection is immense with 300 wines from around the world and a number of craft beers to choose from. Baron’s markets also offers a gourmet food bar and the Point Loma and Rancho Bernardo locations include a fresh salad bar for a quick in-and-out dining option.
Earlier this summer, Baron’s Market in Temecula was honored to be the host grocery store for a Food Network reality show which will air in the coming months. "We had an excellent response from The Food Network team. The head of the culinary team of The Food Network asked us why we hadn’t expanded to New York yet! They were very impressed with our products, how clean the store was and how helpful our team was during the shoot," said Baron's Market Marketing Manager Rachel Shemirani.
San Diegans looking for healthy, natural and organic products may not initially think about Baron’s as their go-to grocery store; but if you’re as picky a buyer as they are, their store could be one to consider. They hold 9,000 products while big chains carry around 40,000, so shopping time decreases as more options can sometimes hinder the process. Currently their stores are located in Point Loma, Rancho Bernardo, Temecula and Wildomar. Keeping it simple, they hope to continue their growth in the coming years as more and more consumers begin to take notice of these supermarket underdogs.