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Store Profile

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 shoppers.
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.
Fiesta Market
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
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 SERVICES Custom designs while customers shop; flowers by the stem, outdoor nursery


always evolving
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 lighting.
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.”

buying locally
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.

sophisticated tastes
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 Ecuadorean 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 upscale styles.
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
and have her arrange them while they shop. “My customers are so used to 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 customer service.

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 displays 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 me.”

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 customers well.
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 future visits.
“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 at or by phone at (800) 355-8086.

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