SPRINGFIELD, Mo. It's an experiment that didn't work.
So a Springfield grocery store that catered to patrons wanting natural foods from area sources will be closing Christmas Eve and merging with a sister store.
"This was a real learning curve for our company," explained Erick Taylor, the president of Rogersville-based Pyramid Foods, which operates some 50 stores in Missouri and Oklahoma under various names. The company has tried a lot of different ideas over the years in a rapidly changing world where Wal-Mart Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets have grabbed a large part of the customer base.
One of their ideas was to open a market geared towards the health-conscious consumer, offering everything from fresh seafood to organic, natural foods and locally-grown products.
But after less than two years of operation, Ruby's Market on Sunshine will be closed on December 24th and combined with a Price Cutter at 3260 East Battlefield Road.
Cutter.Pyramid Food officials say that customers said they liked what was offered at the Ruby's store, but that it didn't fulfill all their needs.
"It was what we call a secondary store," Taylor said of Ruby's. "You still buy 80% of your groceries at a conventional store and you go to Ruby's to pick up your special items that you like for natural foods. They didn't make the full lifestyle change for the consumer to go 100% all natural foods."
Taylor admitted that the difficulty of finding a niche for his local employee-owned company in trying to keep pace with the national giants has led to decisions to close stores, eliminate some pharmacies inside existing stores, and try new things like curbside service.
"Competition makes you better," Taylor said. "It's kind of like playing sports. But the number one thing is you want to make sure you have a team and you're on the field. Because if you have a team and you're on the field then you have a chance to win the game. So yes, we have a lot of gray hair, but it's been gray hair for 50 years in the supermarket business."
And as to what he sees for the future of the grocery market?
"I think you're going to see grocery stores get smaller and eventually I think you're going to see become more convenient," Taylor said. "You can come to the store to get it or we'll bring the store to you by a vehicle."
And he predicts that will be done by self-driving vehicles or drones.
Taylor also pointed out that all 60 of the Ruby's employees will be given the opportunity to continue their employment at Price Cutter.
He also explained that most of the services and products currently at Ruby's will be available at the store-within-a-store at Price Cutter's.