The local connection
Independent Fiesta Market finds a niche by placing customers
and community first.
by Cynthia L. McGowan
Fiesta Market, an independent, gourmet grocery store in
Sebastopol, Calif., has thrived in today’s era of chain stores
and supercenters by showing a willingness to change with the
times, responding to its customers’ needs and offering as many
locally grown products as possible. That philosophy has helped
the store’s small floral department make a big impression on
Sebastopol, in the heart of wine country in Sonoma County, has a
population of 8,000, but more than 50,000 county residents shop
in the city, which has five supermarkets, including Whole Foods,
Safeway and Albertsons. Ken Silveira, the president of Mohar,
Inc., a family business that owns Fiesta Market and Pacific
Market in nearby Santa Rosa, says the company has succeeded in a
competitive marketplace by listening to its customers.
LOCATION Sebastopol, Calif.
PARENT COMPANY Mohar Inc., family-owned grocery company
OTHER STORES Pacific Market in Santa Rosa; the company
recently purchased a third store in Rohnert Park
PRESIDENT Ken Silveira
GENERAL MANAGER Gary Silveira
GROCERY BUYER Brad Mohar
SALES $18.9 million in 2005, according to The 2006
Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
STORE’S SIZE 18,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE 200 square feet
FLORAL SERVICES Custom designs while customers shop;
flowers by the stem, outdoor nursery
FLORAL MANAGER Pixie Anderson
Fiesta Market has been in business since 1966. “We’ve evolved
with the community in terms of trying to make Fiesta
Sebastopol’s grocery store,” he says. Those efforts have paid
off, at least according to readers of a local newspaper who
voted Fiesta Market the county’s “Best Grocery Store” for seven
years in a row.
Mr. Silveira says the store’s success stems from staying on top
of trends like the need for convenience. Customers’ “lives are
busy, and they want to get in and out of here as quickly as
possible,” he says. To meet that need, the store offers hot
entrees to go, prepared by two head chefs with a staff of five
assistants. Customers also can choose from a sushi bar with its
own chef and a huge salad, soup and olive bar.
The store also has a gourmet cheese department filled with
international and local selections. It was expanded and moved to
the front of the store during a recent remodeling, which also
added floors that resemble hardwood and bright, inviting
The produce department has an abundant selection, including
organics, and everything in the meat department is cut and
wrapped to order. “We put a lot of emphasis on the perishables
departments,” says Mr. Silveira. “That is our claim to fame.”
Fiesta Market also makes an effort to buy as many products as
possible from local suppliers. In fact, Mr. Silveira received
the “Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture Perpetual Trophy Award”
in 2003 during the county’s Harvest Fair, an annual wine and
agriculture event. He was honored for “his commitment to the
preservation and promotion of the agricultural bounty of Sonoma
County’s farms and ranches.”
Mr. Silveira says the store buys locally because of the quality
and freshness he can bring his customers. In addition, “it puts
it right back into the community,” he says, “and that’s what
makes it thrive.”
That’s a sentiment that Floral Manager Pixie Anderson agrees
with wholeheartedly. “We’re really into taking care of the local
growers,” she says. “I [buy] as much local product as I can,”
for both plants and cut flowers, including locally grown organic
flowers. Local vendors deliver orders once a week, unless Ms.
Anderson has a special order.
Customers “love local products,” she says, and she reinforces
the local connection by labeling which flowers and plants are
grown nearby. She procures cut flowers that are unavailable
locally, such as tropicals from Hawaii, twice a week from the
San Francisco Wholesale Flower Mart.
Ms. Anderson is a one-woman floral operation, doing all the
ordering, buying, designing and merchandising herself for her
200-square-foot department. Even so, she spends several hours a
week running a store checkout, although she is available if
needed in the floral department. The store is open from 7 a.m.
to 9 p.m. most days, and when she is not in the department, she
makes sure it’s fully stocked with arrangements, plants and cut
flowers. “I have one young lady who helps me out on holidays,”
she says. “Other than that, I go for it.”
Having that ownership of her department ensures she is in tune
with what her sophisticated customers want. “My customers really
like to come in here because I bring in the unusual,” Ms.
Anderson says. “I don’t carry just the pompoms and the
carnations, which you’ll actually rarely find here. I do a lot
of tropicals. I do a lot of exotics.”
Leucospermums (pincushions) are hot sellers in her store, as are
tuberoses and Oriental lilies. She sells the Leucospermums for
$3.99 a stem, and king Proteas go for $5.99. Tuberoses go for
$2.79 a stem. Her
roses are always popular, and they sell for $1.99 most days and
$2.99 during holidays.
Bouquets and arrangements are good sellers, too. Ms. Anderson
works with her suppliers to create unique bouquet styles her
customers will like, and she sells as many as 100 a week at
prices ranging from $2.99 for a daisy bouquet to $25.99 for more
Ms. Anderson keeps a supply of arrangements on hand in her
cooler and also makes custom designs. She makes all arrangements
herself, at prices from $12.99 to $50. She makes an average of
30 arrangements a week to keep in her cooler, and custom designs
about 25 a week.
The department always has balloons for sale—“balloons are very
popular,” she says. Other nonfloral items in the department
include vases, baskets, containers and homemade
incense. She sells plush
items during holidays.
Ms. Anderson has few call-ahead orders and doesn’t deliver; her
customers prefer to pick out their own flowers
have her arrange them while they shop. “My customers are so used
me being here, and they know
that when they come in, they’re going to get the best that they
can possibly get,” says Ms. Anderson, who has worked at the
store for nearly 14 years and takes pride in offering top-notch
drawing attention to floral
Ms. Anderson’s floral department is in an alcove next to the
greeting cards and near the cash registers. It formerly was at
the entrance to the store but was moved to make way for the
enhanced cheese, hot foods and deli areas during the remodeling.
Mr. Silveira, who couldn’t provide floral’s contribution toward
total store sales because the sales are grouped with produce,
acknowledges that they took a slight hit after the move, but he
says Ms. Anderson’s efforts to increase the floral department’s
visibility are paying off. “It’s taken a while, but it’s
working,” he says.
Says Ms. Anderson, “A little floral department can be hidden and
in a small area, but you get to use your creativity on how to
draw people in there. At first people would just walk by, and
they wouldn’t even see it.” To counter that, she put plants on
top of the card racks and moved her flower merchandisers out
into the aisle. She also has balloons floating throughout the
department and the store to get people’s attention.
Ms. Anderson takes advantage of other areas both inside and
outside the store, too. She sells cut flowers, houseplants and
bedding plants outside the store, both in the parking lot and
along the front of the store.
Inside, Ms. Anderson creates cross-merchandising opportunities
wherever she can. As befits a store in wine country, Fiesta
Market has an extensive wine department. Ms. Anderson
bouquets with the wine, and she also puts them in the bakery and
the deli, and reports they sell well there. She also pairs
bottles of wine with arrangements in her floral cooler.
Another tactic Ms. Anderson employs to keep customers’ attention
is changing the look of her department and her product
selection. “I always try to keep fresh, new things in here to
look at,” she says, “because if you have the same product all
the time ... it gets boring, not only for the customers, but for
talking to customers
She also engages with customers, and the energetic, friendly Ms.
Anderson has many repeat customers who know her by name. Ms.
Anderson grew up in Sebastopol, and she knows the store and its
If she doesn’t know someone, “I’ll go up and say, ‘Hi, I’m
Pixie, how are you doing?’ and start talking to them.” She gets
their names and writes them down to help her remember them for
“We have a lot of people who say, “I keep coming back here
because you call me by my name,’” she reports. “And that’s
really special. It makes them feel special, like we really care.
And we do.”
You may reach Cynthia L. McGowan
email@example.com or by phone at (800)
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