By developing long-term relationships with vendors and adapting inventory to fit changing customer needs, this specialty grocery store is thriving. Holiday Market has served customers in Royal Oak, Mich. for more than five decades, and as a family owned and operated grocery store, its mission is to provide high-quality specialty products and outstanding service to every customer who walks through the front door. Because of this focus, the company has managed to compete well with other stores in the area.

Tom Violante, Sr., a Detroit native, founded Holiday Market in 1954. Today, the business is run by his son, Tom Violante, Jr., his daughter, Gina Mangold, and Gina’s husband, Craig Mangold. 

Although he grew up in the business, Violante Jr. never thought he’d follow in his father’s footsteps. “My sisters always knew they wanted to pursue a career that revolved around the store, but I always saw myself doing something different,” he said. Ten years ago, Violante Jr. was working as a manufacturer’s representative, which required a lot of traveling. He set up an office in the family store to work from when he was home, and eventually, he got sucked into the business, he said.

Over the last decade, Violante Jr., his sister, and his brother-in-law have made investments and implemented changes that positively affected the business and its growth. Just last year, the team completed a $4 million expansion project that tripled the size of its produce and bakery areas and created an additional 100 parking spots, among other things. 

As a service-centric grocery store, Holiday Market employs 250 people at its single location, and between the number of employees and customers in the store at any given time, parking was not always readily available. 

“Parking was an issue for us before last year’s renovations, so we added more space and built a rear entrance that was accessible from the new lot,” Violante Jr. said. He went on to explain that approximately 500 condominiums were developed within half a mile of Holiday Market in recent years. Although the homes widened the store’s potential customer base, the congestion accentuated the parking issue.

Holiday Market purchased seven of the homes located behind the store and demolished them to free up space for the parking lot. 

Watch and learn

The renovations at Holiday Market included the construction of a hands-on cooking school, named Mirepoix, on the store’s second floor. According to Violante Jr., the implementation of the school is part of the company’s plan to develop a Holiday Market brand. “When I became involved with the store 10 years ago, we didn’t have a unified brand,” he said. 

After speaking with branding experts, the team at Holiday Market developed a plan to help spread its mission and create a recognizable brand. “We see ourselves as a provider of food and information,” Violante Jr. said. “Our customers always ask questions about food preparation, so when we drew up the expansion plan, I knew we needed a classroom space.”

As a high-end caterer (the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is among its clients), Holiday Market employs a staff that is very knowledgeable in the field of food preparation, and the organization’s team knew that a cooking school would increase revenue and satisfy customers. 

Currently, instructors at Holiday Market teach a variety classes four days a week, and on Saturdays, the team offers a program geared specifically toward children where kids can cook without their parents and learn the proper way to use knives and other kitchen tools. Each adult course is dedicated to a separate style of cooking, like sautéing or baking.

Keeping pace with change

The recent renovations and introduction of classes have helped Holiday Market increase its annual revenue despite tough economic times. These changes, combined with the fact that people tend to eat at home more during a recession, put the company in a good position at the beginning of 2009. 

However, Violante Jr. and his team do have to keep the current economic situation at the front of their minds when making decisions. “Customers are coming in more often and spending less money each trip,” he said. “Consumer habits are something all operators have to be aware of, especially now when people are more budget conscious than ever before.”

As a result of the increase in budget consciousness, the team at Holiday Market has a heightened sense of inventory awareness. A prime example of this concept is the store’s recent modification of its wine selection. 

When Violante Jr. noticed a decrease in the amount of money customers spent each time they visited the store, the first thing he did was transition all of the bottles of wine that cost $50 or more from the shelf and replace them with bottles that cost $15 or less.

Adapting the store’s inventory to the changing needs of its customers ensures everyone—the company, its customers, and its vendors—is satisfied. The company has been partnering with many of its vendors for several decades, and these strong relationships allow inventory changes to occur seamlessly. 

“We’re loyal to our vendors, and they’re loyal to us,” Violante Jr. said. “We never charge for shelf space—ever. Five years ago, a long-term vendor came to me with a check for $10,000 because he knew another company was going to offer me the same if our store partnered with them. We didn’t accept the check, and we stayed with the vendor we had worked with for 20 years.”

Looking to the year ahead, the team at Holiday Market isn’t focused solely on capital gain. “We need to create value, keep our standards up, and stock high-quality products,” Violante Jr. said. “Financial success isn’t what we strive for; it’s an effect. If we provide quality service, success will follow.”

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