The Berkeley-based Grocery Outlet brand, which launched in 1946, started as a military surplus store specializing in closeout merchandise and convenience items. Today, more than 185 independently owned stores across the United States have been serving neighborhoods with quality brand-name products at 40 to 70 percent off conventional grocery store prices.
This winter, Mark and Stephanie Baldwin, along with four of their six children, moved south to warmer climates from Fortuna, California to bring the low-price model to Point Loma and surrounding neighborhoods.
Mark explained the store is able to sell merchandise at such low prices by working with manufacturers to get closeout deals on overstocked or overproduced items, excess promotional goods or obsolete packages.
“Maybe they’re shifting from a 32-ounce to a 30.6-ounce package or something has Olympics-themed wrapping [from] when they were pushing the Olympics. The items are perfectly good, they just need to move them along the supply chain and get them out there,” he said. “Even though we specialize in closeouts, I want people to understand that we have fresh merchandise.”
Although shoppers can certainly complete their shopping trip at the 10,000-square-foot store, the Baldwins explained that the inventory shifts based on what deals are available to them.
“It’s always changing, so if you see something that you like, buy it now because it might not be here next week,” said Stephanie.
Those who enjoy the treasure hunt will love the store for some of its interesting finds, including items from the store’s NOSH (natural, organic, specialty and health) section, fresh produce, wine and beer, health and beauty items, and even a small selection of clothing — all at low prices.
“We’re only 10,000 square feet on the sales floor, so we have to use every inch wisely,” said Mark. “We don’t necessarily have the same skus — skus being the number of items — as big grocers, but you can definitely complete your shopping trip here.”
With 30 years of experience in the mainstream-grocery business, Mark knows how grocery stores and their prices operate — and raising six children helped the Baldwins understand the value of a great bargain.
“It’s one of our missions to touch lives — to impact people’s lives in a positive way,” said Mark. “People who deserve a bargain, people who need a bargain, people who just like a bargain.”
Coming from the corporate culture of Safeway — the second-largest supermarket chain in the nation — to owning and operating a mom-and-pop-style store is something the pair is looking forward to, they said.
“It’s an exciting change for us,” said Mark. “You know as an operator, as a merchant, what makes sense and what you should be doing. You’re not beholden to stockbrokers. As an operator, I had 130 employees, but I was constantly running administration drills and I had no time to connect with my staff or my customers.”
He and Stephanie plan to embrace that owner-operator interface with their customers and facilitate a daily interaction with their team of approximately 30 staff members.
“We really want to set ourselves apart with our customer service and people being able to see the owner-operators on a daily basis. We’re going to run a very clean store,” said Stephanie. “I want it to feel like they’re coming into our home.”
Point Loma Grocery Outlet will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for employees and staff members on Feb. 13, with a soft opening on Feb. 14. On Feb. 16, the Baldwins will host a grand-opening event to reflect their commitment to serving the community. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Point Loma High School Instrumental Boosters and a palette of merchandise will be donated to Ocean Beach-based food-distribution nonprofit Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, who the grocers will partner with throughout the year with food drives, discounts on items and weekly donations.
Point Loma Grocery Outlet is located at 3948 W. Point Loma Blvd. For more information, visit www.groceryoutlet.com/pointloma-ca or call (619) 704-1440.