Susanville Supermarket celebrates 20th anniversary
Susanville Supermarket employees gather in the produce section for a photograph as the locally owned store celebrates its 20th anniversary of service to the community. Photo by Aura Whittaker
Susanville’s Hometown Proud IGA store, Susanville Supermarket celebrates 20 years in business with a host of store promotions to share with its customers.
But as owners Rick and Anna Stewart celebrate a successful 20 years, they give all the credit to their employees and their customers.
“We’re proud to be here, and we really want to thank the community for letting us build our lives here and be part of this community,” Rick said. “This building is just four block walls. What makes the difference is the people who work here and the customers who shop here. In the past 20 years we’ve really made an effort to make Susanville our home. As a result, we’ve been able to provide hundreds of jobs that provide a living wage and the opportunity for kids to go to college, the opportunity for young people to develop their work skills, and more importantly their work ethic. One of the things I’m most proud of is we were able to come in and conduct business in such a fashion that it wasn’t just about the bottom line. It never has been.”
For two weeks customers can enjoy a number of in-store promotions including “the hottest sale prices we’ve had for a very long time and a number of in-store drawings,” Rick said. “We’re going to give away a bunch of prizes, free groceries, a television, tablet computer and four bicycles. There’s going to be lots of drawings and lots of stuff and samples. We’d love to have people come by and say hi.”
The employees at the store are still union members, as are the owners, and the store still operates the way supermarkets did 20 years ago.
In addition, the Stewarts made it a priority that the store would be a sort of “community center” that would serve its customers and the community in a number of different ways such as being a place to disseminate information in the event of a wildfire, a power outage or some other emergency.
The Stewarts are also proud of being able to support the community by donating or discounting food to agencies and organizations during holidays or fundraisers.
Best of all, Susanville Supermarket is a local business.
“When I go home, I’m looking at Thompson Peak,” Rick said. “It’s doesn’t get any more local or committed to the community than that. One hundred percent of our receipts are deposited here in local banks, and all of that profit stays here in Lassen County.”
While many stores are changing to pre-made, prepackaged items, Susanville Supermarket still employees meat cutters who process the meat and poultry, employees who operate a complete bakery where items are made from scratch every day and produce workers who trim and stock the produce aisle.
The Stewarts believe this attention to quality makes “a world of difference” for the customer.
“Take a look at one of our apple fritters compared to a thaw and serve,” Rick said. “Those are done fresh every single night, and they start out as flour and sugar and they wind up being donuts.”
“You go to a meat counter these days and look at the package, and you’ll find an ingredients list,” Anna said. “Our meat is cut.”
“The industry has gone to packaged meat,” Rick said. “It comes to the store already packaged … but all of our beef is cut, wrapped and labeled in our meat department. That just doesn’t happen anymore. Meat cutters are going away. Bakers are going away. We’ve been fortunate. Our baker’s been with us 16 years, and he’s been able to bring up the people coming behind him.”
As one might expect, the grocery business has changed dramatically during the past 20 years, and the Susanville Supermarket has kept up with all those changes along the way.
Stewart pointed out while many local businesses have also survived for 20 years, when he and his wife opened the store in 1993 Diamond Mountain Casino did not exist, there was one prison (now there are three), the hospital was still at its former Hospital Drive site, Susanville enjoyed just one theatre with one screen, J.C. Penny was located at the top of Main Street and store employees could walk to Plumas Bank (now the site of the Lassen County Times building).
Even how customers purchase their food has changed over the years.
Stewart said in 1993 everyone paid with checks, cash or food stamps. Those days are long gone. Now most people pay for their purchases with credit or debit cards and the stores receives just a few checks and even less cash.
“Back then grocery stores sold food and gas stations sold gas,” Stewart said. He added many grocery stores are now adding filling stations to their operations and we all know how gas stations have turned into convenience stores that sell snacks, food and drinks along with gasoline.
Despite the trend, Stewart said he has no plans to sell gas at Susanville Supermarket.
Some trends have come and gone over the years. Many supermarkets today are twice as large as Susanville Supermarket, but the building was huge when it opened. Still, the store manages to stock some 35,000 items and keeping up with new items and determining what items customers want to find on the shelves is a big part of the store’s customer service.
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