“Cheers” got it right—sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. That’s a concept that the Boyer’s family has embraced as a neighborhood grocery store chain, and it’s a feeling that Dean Walker intends to preserve.
It’s been more than two decades since Walker joined the Boyer’s Food Markets family. Walker took the helm as president 10 years ago, and he and his team have worked with Boyer’s to transition ownership over that time. As the remaining Boyers retire, Walker will assume ownership of the supermarket chain this year. He’s positioning Boyer’s for a successful future by balancing its tradition of community with upgrades and modernization of its stores.
Boyer’s started as a local corner grocery store in 1949, embracing and maintaining a neighborhood feeling. “Boyer’s operates smaller footprint stores than most of the national competition,” Walker said. “We are in smaller, often rural, communities and need to maintain the identity of the neighborhood grocer as a point of differentiation to the larger national chains.”
That neighborhood feeling means focusing on unmatched service. Compared to larger supermarket chains, Boyer’s size might appear to be a disadvantage in some instances, Walker said. But this independent grocer has an edge when it comes to convenience and assistance. “We try to use our size as an
advantage. In and out quick, but your able to get basically everything you want and need in a smaller, more friendly footprint.”
As the chain expands, it’s important to maintain the local feeling. Walker said that’s possible by working closely with the communities they serve. “We’re hiring staff from within these communities, giving the kids in the towns a place to work, working with the local organizations and supporting all of their events. We’re just like one of your neighbors.”
Walker acknowledged that it can be challenging to keep up with larger companies that have access to more resources. “Customer’s expect the same website experience, the same online ordering experience or the same retail prices as companies that have endlessly larger buying power, staff and resources than we do,” he said.
“We have an ongoing remodel program, and we reinvest literally every dollar we make back into that program. We’re able to do a major remodel to one or two stores every year, and every store has been touched at least once in the last 10 years. We are already cycling back through stores for a second and third time.”
As Boyer’s continues its rennovation program, its Tamaqua store prepares for a revamp. Altough this location is one of the smaller stores, it is one with high-volume traffic. This is the first store to get more than just equipment and decor upgrades.
“This remodel will include our first-ever building expansion,” Walker said. “A 5,000-square foot addition out the front of the building will allow the entire store to be remerchandised, and every perishable and refrigerated department will be expanded. This will include a brand-new relocated bakery department, produce department and fresh foods to go in the new addition. The entire focus on this remodel and expansion, besides replacing old cases, is to expand perishables and add more fresh food to go.”
Two retail buildings also will be constructed and attached to the store, housing a relocated PA Wine and Spirits store and a proposed beer distributor. The three businesses will all be accessible through the main entrance, creating a convenient, one-stop shopping experience for Tamaqua customers.
The Tamaqua remodel is a huge project for Boyer’s that will require a lot of resources through the spring, Walker said. Once that project is complete, they will shift their focus to the next store on the list.
”We already have the next stores chosen for upgrades, and once Tamaqua is complete, we’ll begin a smaller project remodel, and a larger one behind that. It never stops, we’ll just continue to reinvest constantly to make as many improvements as we can with every resource we have available.”
This dedication and commitment to their stores always circles back to Boyer’s first priority—its customers.
“We pride ourselves on our customer service,” Walker said. “We train on it endlessly—we’ve branded it as ‘Red Shirt Service.’ We hope every customer leaves feeling that we care, they matter, they’re important and that we do everything possible to meet or exceed their expectations.