Sunday, April 06, 2008

RTM May Get Grocer Again

The new occupant of what was formerly Margerum's and, more recently, The Natural Connection, likely will be Dave Schreiber, owner of Jonathan's Best in Chestnut Hill. As of last week no lease agreement was signed, but the only remaining details to be worked out were some product offering specifics. Although everyone's optimistic, that could be a deal-breaker.

Jonathan Best has been around for about a quarter of a century, selling groceries and "gourmet" products. It's the only seven-day operation at the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market.

Bringing Jonathan Best to the RTM would restore the presence of a grocer in the market, something both management and merchants (even the sandwich vendors) want. Having a grocer with dry and canned goods and other staples means food shoppers don't have to make a separate trip to a supermarket to pick up the one or two extra items they may need for a recipe.

The problem for the grocer is that it's a low-margin business. So Schreiber is looking to add other items for sale which will allow him to earn a reasonable profit; canned goods and packaged grains just don't do it.

That's where the negotiating over product lines becomes complicated. Where Schreiber sells sandwiches at Chestnut Hill, that would be a no-no for a grocer at the RTM. It's hard to avoid overlapping product lines with other merchants entirely. This past winter, when Dutch Country Farms' expanded to baked goods, it caused consternation to an Amish section merchant selling baked goods, resulting in DCM having to pull the line of products from the Northeast's Haegerle's Bakery. Jonathan Best started out as a cheesemonger in Chestnut Hill, but the RTM already has two full-fledged cheesemongers and others who also sell cheese. Just about any higher-margin grocery item Jonathan Best could carry is also sold by another RTM merchant. So RTM management is faced with a delicate task: trying to limit significant competition with other merchants while providing Schreiber with the higher-margin products he needs to sell to be profitable.

At least one veteran merchant suggests lottery tickets might be the answer.

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'Green' Cleaning Supplies at RTM

Household cleaning supplies -- all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, dish and hand soaps -- have been added by The Cookbook Stall.

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