Hometown favorite

See photos of Petersons Fresh Market here.

For more than 60 years Petersons Fresh Market has endeared itself to the residents of Riverton, Utah, with friendly service, freshly ground beef, top-notch produce and a mouth-watering scratch bakery.

Residents of Riverton, Utah, looking for the best supermarket shopping experience are directing their feet to the even side of the street.pfm4

They have to because after 17 years in its last location, on the odd numbered side of busy main drag West 12600 South, Petersons Fresh Market has packed up and moved directly across the street to what was previously a Fresh Market, an Associated Food Stores banner that is no relation to the Greensboro, N.C.-based natural/organics chain.

As a result, Petersons not only picked up an even address but also an additional 10,000 square feet, allowing the 62-year-old independent to drastically expand its produce, bakery, meat and pharmacy departments, plus add a promotional aisle showcasing massive case displays of the weekly specials.

“We are now on the drive side home so it is a little bit easier for our customers and this building is not only larger but two years newer than our old building,” says Monte Peterson. He is a co-owner of Petersons Fresh Market along with his sister Jan Horrocks and Associated Food Stores, the $2 billion Salt Lake City-based cooperative wholesaler that supplies nearly 500 independents in eight western states. Peterson’s son Brandon serves as store manager.

“Associated owns a portion of this operation right now, but there is a mechanism in the operating agreement that we will automatically buy them out,” says Peterson, who also serves as Associated’s chairman.

Petersons had been at 1777 West 12600 South for decades. Its first store on that site was a mere 8,000 square feet. “We added on and made it 10,000 square feet, then 12,000, then 24,000 and then 34,000,” Peterson says. “Then in 1976 we built our 44,000 square foot store in back of that store and tore it down.”

Petersons’ new home also has a long, somewhat checkered supermarket history.
Safeway built a store there in the late 1980s. When Safeway pulled out of the Salt Lake City market Detroit’s Farmer Jack moved in. “Farmer Jack had a lot of trouble when they moved here,” Peterson says. “Forty percent of the store was produce and that was too much. They had Heinz baby food hand stacked on the shelf. Well, this whole market is Gerber and people buy cases of it. They didn’t do their homework.”

That explains why Farmer Jack only lasted about a year. It was followed by an IGA store, and when that failed another IGA opened shop. “Then Albertsons took over the building, and after a couple of years they built this building and tore down the original store,” Peterson says. “In 2009, Associated Food Stores purchased most of the Albertsons stores in Utah, changed the name to Fresh Market and operated this store until June,” he says.

“We took operations over on June 3 and operated both stores for one week,” Peterson says. “Then we closed Sunday at both locations, which we close at ours anyway, and we opened it on Monday. We were moving [freezer and refrigerated] cases over prior to us taking it over. They remodeled over there according to our plans prior to us taking possession. We remodeled it while it was still a Fresh Market to allow them to go through the remodeling pains. Some of our cases were already over there, in place and operational when we took it over.”

Although Peterson was able to move many of his energy-saving LED frozen and dairy fixtures across the street, he regrets not being able to take them all.

Aisles were realigned and reset during the remodeling. “We turned a number of the aisles,” Peterson says. “They had some running north/south and some east/west, so we set them all the same way.” The only exception is in the Pharmacy area where low-shelved aisles run perpendicular to the rest of the shopping pattern.

“This way people can walk in and go directly to the Pharmacy,” Peterson says. “The low-profile aisles help it look more like a drugstore.”

Most shoppers entering the store pass the displays filled with the week’s Smokin’ Hot! specials. The area contains case stacks of grocery items, like Rice Krispies Treats and cereal, refrigerated gondolas filled with produce buys and some warehouse club items, like a five-gallon pail of oatmeal for $21.99.

Reminiscent of a 1950’s coffee shop, the seating area for Petersons deli is to the immediate left of the store entrance, its walls lined with black-and-white pictures of previous Petersons stores dating back to 1938.

Today’s Petersons has built a reputation for its deli being an economical alternative to chain restaurants with its Meal Deal program. The French Dip Meal Deal, for example, offers shoppers 1-pound of BirchBerry brand roast beef, ½-pound of provolone cheese, an au jus pack and a six-pack of hoagie rolls for only $10.99; the All-American Meal Deal featuring eight pieces of fried chicken, salad, cole slaw, baked beans and a four-pack of rolls is a similar value. Handbills are given out detailing the $3.99 weekday daily lunch specials for the month. They feature items including chicken enchiladas, turkey BLTs, country fried steak, meatloaf and a potato bar every Friday.

During the lunch and dinner rush a sushi chef prepares sushi rolls to order from a table set up on the selling floor.

Many of the salads in the service case, including the Krab, chicken and chipotle chicken are prepared in-house. Two brands of lunch meats are carried: Columbus and BirchBerry.

“Most of the Associateds have been going to Columbus and away from Boar’s Head because the quality level is very, very similar and it is a better price point,” Peterson says. “BirchBerry is our mainstream, more price-conscious luncheon meat brand.”

Deli flows into the produce department, where a life-size replica of an old Ford truck is parked in the middle of the sales floor, its bed loaded with 10-pound sacks of Idaho potatoes at the hot feature price of $1.99 during one recent visit.

“This one is a replica made of fiberglass that is on casters,” Peterson says, “but I do have a 1945 truck that I am restoring that was my grandfather’s and we hope to use that in parades and other special occasions.”

The remodel allowed the produce department selling area to be greatly enlarged and enhanced. That was accomplished by removing a grocery aisle and moving the wet rack from the back of the removed grocery aisle to the opposite side wall.

“This remodel was perfect. It made the store. Now we definitely have the reputation for the hometown favorite,” says Dennis Taylor, Petersons’ produce manager, who came over from Fresh Market. “I have so many people that ask me ‘Did they knock out a wall?’ because the department looks so much bigger and open.”

pfm8Produce offerings have greatly increased from when Fresh Market occupied the site, Taylor says. “I just have so much confidence that whatever I bring in is going to sell,” he says, pointing out the vast selection of apples being featured. “We really have a variety. We brought in every variety in the order guide to try and identify what our bestsellers are, and they are all doing well. I think I could even sell caviar in this department.”

That would not be too much of a stretch since even 19-ounce tubs of boiled peanuts have become a best seller.

“We’re always looking to try new things. We’re not afraid,” Taylor says. “These boiled peanuts are very popular in the South but I didn’t know how they would do out here, so I asked the manufacturer (Salt Lake City-based Chris & Dave’s) if we could sell them on consignment. He didn’t hesitate about that and we are already on our third shipment.”

Store-made salsa and guacamole are also doing well. “We also make our own veggie trays,” Taylor says. “We find they sell better. The pre-made trays have a 20-day code, and I find quality issues with them. We have five days, and at 8 o’clock on the morning of the fifth day if it is not sold we throw it away.”

Along the back wall, shrinkage is not much of a problem in the bakery department because the made-from-scratch goods are so delectable and reasonably priced.

“We rolled back the bakery and brought in most of our equipment, the ovens, mixers, etc. over here from across the street,” Peterson says.

Big Foot in bakery case
Cakes, bread, rolls and doughnuts are among the items baked from scratch. “With the doughnuts we actually mix the dough and cut them,” says April Somers, bakery associate. “We like that because we can put our personality into it and do what we want. We have a lot of different variety that we put out, which also makes us unique in this market,” Somers says.

That variety includes the Big Foot—a 14-ounce foot-shaped éclair-type pastry made from doughnut dough, stuffed with whipped cream, and topped with a chocolate ganache, complete with jellybean painted toenails.

Also selling out daily is the Navajo Fry Bread, fried bread dough that is used to make a local treat called the Navajo Taco. “You put beans on top of this and cheese, lettuce and whatever else you want and you just eat it flat,” Somers says.

Shoppers can pick up those refried beans and other condiments in Petersons expanded grocery aisles. “We were able to increase our grocery SKUs because we have more space,” Peterson says. “The thing I like about having the extra space is that we have more promotional areas to do things, have special displays and events.”

Thus the new store does not have a “cluttered” feeling. “I try not to put as many displays in the aisles as I did over there,” Peterson says, motioning across the street. “I’m trying to give that ‘open’ feeling. I can do that here. I had a hard time doing it over there because we try to be promotionally active.”

The meat department was also reconfigured as a result of the remodel, with cases being shifted and the service department being expanded and moved to the rear corner of the store. Petersons prides itself on its Certified Angus Beef and store-ground beef.

“We have a lot of specialty items in meat,” Peterson says. “We make our own bratwursts, stuffed peppers, stuffed mushrooms, chicken Cordon Bleu and burgers.”

Compounding pharmacy
At Petersons they even make their own medications. Unlike the Walgreens cattycorner across the street, Petersons’ pharmacy department is a compounding pharmacy. “We make certain hormonal type remedies and items that doctors prescribe that have to be made on an individualized scale,” Peterson says. “It is not a big segment, but it does differentiate us.”

The compounding pharmacy is just one of the many nuances that has endeared Petersons Fresh Market’s new store to the Riverton community, but of course some customers still prefer the old digs. “There are always a few naysayers, but overall we have been well accepted,” Peterson says.

Bulking up
In a rear alcove over by bakery is Petersons Fresh Market’s bulk foods section. Not bulk in the traditional supermarket term of scooping out loose flour and granola from 50-gallon barrels, but bulk in terms of gallon canisters of dehydrated fruits, vegetables, soups, milk and other staples that can help consumers weather a 100-year flood, earthquake, civil unrest or other doomsday scenario.

“Food storage is important to a lot of people out here,” says Monte Peterson, co-owner. “We’ve been asked to have at least a one-year food supply. You are supposed to have a three-day emergency backpack.”

That is partly because Salt Lake City lies along the Wasatch Front fault line. “We are in an earthquake zone and at some point in the next 50 years it is supposed to happen,” Peterson says.

Most of the items in the department are sourced from two suppliers: Augason Farms and Food Supply Depot, both out of Salt Lake City. The selection includes things like 45-pound pails of hard red wheat and 23-pound pails of oats for $21.99 each, as well as canisters of dehydrated potato shreds, red and green bell pepper, chopped onion, freeze dried sliced strawberries, honey-coated banana slices, dehydrated diced carrots, scrambled egg mix, hearty vegetable beef soup mix, Spiff-e Whip (Dream Whip), taco flavored vegetarian meat substitute and buttermilk powder, to name a few.

An Emergency Kit from Food Supply Depot is also stacked in the area. Merchandised in a 5-gallon plastic pail, it contains pouches of artisan oatmeal, six grain cereal, Texan Sunrise Skillet Mix, instant milk, Refreshing Orange beverage mix, Nantucket Potato Soup, Rotini ala Manara, Rio Grande Beans and Rice, a 23-piece first-aid kit, filter water bottle, portable cooking stove, cooking pot with detachable handle, measuring cup, folding utensil set and a box of waterproof matches.

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