LAS VEGAS â Sometimes I take for granted that I live in a fresh food loverâs paradise.
On any given day, I can go to one of four retailers within a mile of my house and get just about anything I want.
If I want to expand my appetite for the unusual, I can drive another 6-10 miles and get to an Asian, Hispanic or specialty grocery.
It was a humbling experience to tag along with the retail tour at the National Grocers Association convention on Feb. 16. We visited three stores in the Las Vegas area:
- Cardenas Markets, a Hispanic-themed chain based in Ontario, Calif.;
- Raniâs World Foods, a Mediterranean-themed one-store operation in about 10,000 square feet; and
- Sunflower Farmers Market, a Boulder, Colo.-based chain that focuses on fresh produce, natural foods and high-end meats.
Many of the NGAâs members have rural, family-owned single store or small chains.
Several I talked to were in towns with populations of 5,000 or 10,000 whose major competition would be the Wal-Mart Supercenter in the nearest county seat.
Some of these folks are in what Iâd consider a rural food desert. They canât carry the assortment Iâm used to because they may live somewhere steak ânâ potatoes goes over better than jicama and Tajin.
My tour mates seemed most impressed with the Cardenas we visited, and frankly I was too. It was brand new, having opened just a few weeks before. The store was bright, colorful and filled to the rafters with produce, meat and service counters full of freshly made salsas and guacamoles and pastries.
Island displays featured mountains of clamshells of strawberries. I overheard one guy say the store sure must move a lot of them to keep them out like that.
This cornucopia may seem unbelievable to a retailer whose store only gets shipments twice or maybe three times a week.
I spoke to one rural retailer whose store had to go without bananas for several days because their supplier didnât double check the order. Can you imagine a produce department with the limitations these hardworking folks face?
Next time Iâm strolling through the aisles of plenty, I will think of my friends in Eau Claire, Wis., and pick up some potatoes and do something creative for dinner.
How do you deal with limitations on fresh produce shipments or availability? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.