Karns Quality Foods

Giant Food Carlisle and Weis Markets may operate bigger and far more numerous stores, but in Central Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg region Karns Quality Foods is butchering the competition – with 100% full-service meat and seafood departments that draw customers from miles around. In addition, the chain is renowned for its made-from-scratch bakery, especially its pies and cakes. In an effort to boost its competitiveness, Karns has a “Save the most with Max” program that features hot deals on grocery products. Plus, it operates a loyalty card program that rewards shoppers with Karns gift cards when they reach various spending levels.

Grocery Headquarters recently visited Karns’ newest store in Carlisle, Pa., which opened on May 24.

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Karns Quality Foods opened its newest store in Carlisle, Pa. on May 24, in what had been a Nell’s ShurFine store.

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Karns is known throughout the region for its service meat department and especially its steaks, says Scott Karns, owner and CEO.

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The eight-unit chain is so proud of its service meats that it has dubbed itself as having “PA’s Best Meat Dept.” – spelled out in neon above the store entrance.

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And service is always done with a smile.

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The meat department runs along the back wall of the store and because of its service aspect was expanded out deeper into the floor in what had been Nell’s center store area.

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Stuffed pork chops are a big seller.

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As winter sets in roasts will become more popular.

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Fresh turkey is sold year-round.

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Sausages are made in-house daily. A best-seller is the Chicken Philly Cheesesteak sausage that was created by Andrea Karns, Scott’s daughter and the VP of marketing.

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Karns has an agreement with a local smokehouse to produce a proprietary line of bacon.

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At Karns all of the meat is butchered in-house.

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Chopped meat is ground daily from whole muscle cuts, like steak and chuck. Unlike “factory” ground beef, because each cut of meat is different, Karns does not offer specific blends, like the 80/20 chuck that most stores do.

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At Karns people literally buy meat buy the sack. Each week it offers bulk quantities at a steep discount, like these chicken leg quarters at 69-cents a pound. However, on a Tempting Tuesday one-day sale all customers can buy as much or as little at the same great sale price.

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Hot dogs are big in Central Pennsylvania, and Karns offers a wide selection.

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John F. Martin & Sons is one popular local brand.

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Because of its proximity to Baltimore, Esskay Orioles franks are a big seller.

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Lebanon and Sweet Lebanon Bologna, a soft, smoked salami-type sausage is especially popular in Pennsylvania. Karns offers several brands, including Seltzer’s.

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They even sell Double Smoked Sweet Bologna for the real Lebanon Bologna aficionado.

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Ring Bologna, a kielbasa-shaped bologna, is also big in these parts.

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Karns carries meats from Weaver’s of Wellsville, a tiny old-fashioned manufacturer that is not carried in the bigger chain stores.

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The seafood department spans 20-feet, and, like meat, is 100% service. In June Karns conducted a 3-day sale on “whale” size soft shell crabs that were sold for $4.99 each. Shoppers had to pre-order them. Karns was expected to sell a few hundred, but sold 1,800 of the crustaceans.

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Near the front of the store is the Bulk Barn bulk foods department. It features more than 450 items that are packaged at company headquarters in Mechanicsburg for safety and sanitary reasons.

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Popular items include candy raspberries and blackberries.

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Along with candy citrus fruit slices.

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Head’s up – the produce department stocks as many local items as possible.

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Karns has agreements with many local farmers stretching back years.

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Local peaches are a big seller when in season.

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A new program instituted at Carlisle and since rolled out to the other Karns stores is the bulk tote program. 1.5-quart tote bags of fruit are sold at a set price.

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The fruit is sometimes smaller than the per-pound ones sold across the aisle, but Karns says that the quality is just as good and they offer up a great value for families.

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Peaches have proven especially popular.

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The produce department also encompasses a small selection of potted plants and fresh cut flowers.

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The produce department also encompasses a small selection of potted plants and fresh cut flowers.

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Karns features an extensive in-store bakery department.

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It features breads...

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Pastries...

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Made-from-scratch in-store decorated cakes...

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And 100% made-from-scratch pies.

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Half-pies are a popular seller.

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And being Pennsylvania, so is shoo fly pie!

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The deli department features Dietz & Watson meats and an extensive selection of homemade salads.

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Karns added an extensive International Cheese section to the store. It was something predecessor Nell’s ShurFine did not carry. Sales have exceeded expectations.

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Another new department is the Eastern European Foods international section, located across the aisle from the deli.

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It includes things like Pork Patty Luncheon Loaf imported from Croatia...

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Domestically produced Hungarian Beef Goulash...

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Domestically produced Hungarian Beef Goulash...

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Gallon jars of pickled cabbage leaves...

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European chocolates.

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European stuffed croissants...

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Chocolate wafers...

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And Pekmez od Sljiva Plum Butter Spread.

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There is also a selection of European style meats.

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Chicken roll is a big seller in Eastern Europe.

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Karns’ grocery aisles are a little shorter than when it was Nell’s ShurFine.

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But Karns has expanded the frozen food section.

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To become more competitive with market leaders Giant Food and Weis Markets the small chain has instituted the Save The Most with Max! deep price cut program.

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Supervalu’s Essential Everyday is stocked as the house brand.

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One of the few Karns label products is the Konhaus Farms Yellow Clingstone peaches that are produced a few counties away and have a definite homemade taste.

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To set itself apart Karns also carries many local brands, like Brinser’s Best corn meal from Manheim, Pa...

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Pennsylvania Dutch birch beer...

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Jake & Amos pickled vegetables...

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and Chef Tim’s salad dressing does about $70,000 worth of business with Karns.

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Arooga’s wing and barbecue sauce is from a local small restaurant chain. Karns sold 30 cases in one week.

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Many of the gourmet foods at Karns are sourced from Roland.

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Bananas are cross-merchandised in the cereal aisle.

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Like most Pennsylvania retailers Karns stocks a huge assortment of potato chips, including the Martin’s brand.

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Martin’s Special Homemade pretzels (no relation to the potato chips) are also a big seller.

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Martin’s pretzels are hand-twisted and feature no preservatives.

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