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City Market Draws From Grass Roots

Kurt Jaeger is an independent operator who has benefited from the economic downturn with the sale of 37 Minyard Food Stores stores earlier this year to Grocers Supply Co., Houston. The softening economy was partly to blame for the shedding of stores, Minyard company officials told SN in July. The former Minyard family-run chain, based in Coppell, Texas, has been under private-equity

FORT WORTH, Texas — Kurt Jaeger is an independent operator who has benefited from the economic downturn with the sale of 37 Minyard Food Stores stores earlier this year to Grocers Supply Co., Houston.

The softening economy was partly to blame for the shedding of stores, Minyard company officials told SN in July. The former Minyard family-run chain, based in Coppell, Texas, has been under private-equity ownership since investors acquired the chain in 2004. The firm now operates 21 stores of the original 60-plus stores it originally acquired.

Jaeger, 51, bought one of the Minyard stores sold to Grocers Supply Co., his wholesaler, in October. He renamed the 39,000-square-foot store City Market with the motto: “Same friendly people. Same great service.”

The store was remodeled with folksy hand-painted murals on department walls. The art is intended to convey the role the store plays in the community. Jaeger also upgraded store fixtures and equipment, and expanded produce, beer and wine. All 40 employees were retained and new staff members have been added, bringing total labor in-store to 70 full- and part-time employees to boost front-end hours and other store services.

Jaeger said the opportunity he sees in his new store, which attracts middle- to upper-income shoppers, is customer service. “You have to take care of business the old-fashioned way, through customer service. Listen to your customers and do what they ask.” This is something he believes big chains lack.

Jaeger, who has a financial degree and had aspirations to be a stockbroker, began his grocery career at age 16 as a Safeway stock clerk and went on to become a Safeway manager ; he later bought a former Safeway store in Crandall, Texas, in 1987. He sold that store and acquired a 34,000-square-foot store in 2003 — Bransom's Thriftee Food Market, a family-run store established in 1951, located in Burleson, Texas, a middle-class suburb here. Bransom's also was renamed City Market.

Since he took over the Fort Worth location, Jaeger said sales are up 25%. The Burleson store tripled sales after a major revamp.

Jaeger aims for the jugular with sweets in attracting shoppers to his stores. The stores give away thousands of soft-serve ice cream cones. “We want our customers to leave with a sweet taste in their mouths and sweet thoughts,” Jaeger said.

He is known for big in-store themed displays that offer shoppers good deals.

Through grass-roots marketing and community fund raising, Jaeger draws in new shoppers and raises awareness for his stores. He gives away a bag of five free food items (5-pound bag of potatoes, gallon of milk, loaf of bread, pound of ground chuck and 12-pack of any soft drink of choice) and store coupons to families who have moved into the neighborhood. The retailer also canvasses door-to-door with fliers and in-store specials.

Going forward, Jaeger said, “I want to carefully expand, and I want to make sure the people that work with me are successful too.”