Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ukrop's still #1 to us

For Richmond area family-owned Ukrop's Super Market to be #1 in the grocery store lineup the past 20 years is itself remarkable, so the news that they slipped to #2 was not alarming.

Ukrop's is a local food store leader ... Ukrop's stores are all in the Richmond area with the exception of one in Williamsburg, one in Fredericksburg, and one in Roanoke. Ukrop's is closed on Sundays and does not sell beer or wine even though they are overshadowed by national chains such as Food Lion, Kroger, and WalMart.

Today's Richmond Times-Dispatch reveals Ukrop's has slipped to the #2 spot while Food Lion has moved to #1. Food Lion has 52 stores in the Richmond area. Ukrop's has 20 stores.

As a Chesterfield County native, I grew up with Ukrop's and continue to shop there whenever in the Richmond area, buying groceries to bring back to the Valley.

My sister who still lives in Chesterfield and I have been discussing this issue since Ukrop's closed an under-performing store in Williamsburg last year and with news that the Roanoke store is not doing as well as hoped. In an attempt to watch the bottom line, Ukrop's has discontinued some less popular food items in its bakeries.

What makes Ukrop's different from the chain stores is its hometown touch: closed on Sundays, no alcohol sales, giving back to the community, cleanliness in the stores, fresh local product in-season, support of local vendors.

The economy these days is not good and people have to watch their spending so perhaps the time has come for Ukrop's to consider opening on Sundays to catch those sales when people are off for the weekend. It doesn't have to be all the stores ... maybe have Sunday openings of strategically selected ones. Another route would be selling beer and wine to keep those sales in-store instead of losing them to nearby grocers. Of course, those are tenets of the family from the days of founder Joe Ukrop so they may want to honor him by preserving those traditions.

Whatever Ukrop's decides to do, they have every reason to hold their heads high. To stave off national competition for 20 years has been quite an accomplishment ... and who knows? Next report may show they are back on top. Meanwhile, everyone has to hunker down to ride out this financial storm.

My bet's on Ukrop's remaining a leading force in the Richmond grocery field.


Tom White said...

I like the Ukrops. They have been very very good to a lot of causes in Richmond and the area. University of Richmond is blessed with the generous support of the Ukrops. The one think I find a bit disingenuous about their alcohol and Sunday closings decisions is that they DO sell cigarettes. I guess they draw the high moral ground line at offending Phillip Morris workers who are customers and spend a lot of money there. I am not a drinker or smoker and applaud them giving their workers off on Sunday. I would just like to see them complete the moral statement.

Bob K. said...

I love Ukrops. I wish they had expanded into the Valley when everyone else was building stores like mad. I think Ukrops will emerge as a winner in the long run because the family who owns it are looking for something more than profits on steroids.

When I'm in Richmond I often enjoy stopping at the Ukrops Cafe. The store environment is one that can only be created by caring hands-on management -- something the Ukrops family could teach the rest of us much about.

Ukrops will always be in a class by itself.

Anonymous said...

Ukrops is awful. Overpriced, and not worth it. They jam their "values" down shoppers' throats. No alcohol, they only started selling cigarettes in recent years, and they ran Howard Stern off the radio in Richmond years ago bc they think everyone should feel/think exactly like themselves.

And if their stores aren't doing so well, perhaps the Ukrops family should stop spending so much on their homes, condos, cars, and political aspirations.

Anonymous said...

Um, yeah. People in Richmond who want to pay more for better quality go to Whole Foods, Ellwood Thompsons, and the Fresh Market. Ukrops is no better than Food Lion or Kroger. Their meat is at times downright awful. Their produce is hardly better than anyone else's produce. And the owners blow their money all over town and treat their employees less than desirably as of late, so I will continue to NOT shop there.

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

Anonymous #1 and Anonymous #2: You both sounds like sour grapes, or the competition, or both. It's a food market, for pete sake -- a choice that's available for shoppers. By all means shop elsewhere.

I maintain that Ukrop's is a premiere supermarket with the highest quality produce and products (your meat purchase may have been a fluke), and their cleanliness is above most.

The Ukrops family is one of the most philanthropic in the area, always giving back to the community. Do they live in big houses? Yes ... but they earned it ... we ARE, after all, a free enterprise country.

The Ukrops children begin as baggers and stockers and work their way up so they know all aspects of the business. Employees are treated like family. Stores are closed on Sundays and holidays so associates can spend that time with their own families.

No, I'm not related and no, I was never an employee. I grew up with my family shopping their stores (and they still do).

Politics -- don't even get me started. They vote Republican in national elections and Democrat in local/state (generally) so no one side can claim them.

Ukrop's is a Richmond company that makes the city and surrounding areas proud.