Specialty Food Magazine

MAY-JUN 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 72 of 103

vnsourmtrk Mollie Stone's Markets W hen college buddies Dave Bennett and Mike Stone went into business, their mission was simple: bring natural foods into a larger market. Since opening its doors more than two decades ago, the original Mollie Stone's Market has expanded to nine locations in the Bay Area, offering more than 30,000 SKUs in the largest stores, including produce, service meat and deli, specialty food and core grocery items. History…In 1986 the two friends opened their first store, a 15,000-square-foot natural foods store in Redwood City, Calif. Two years later, they had—and jumped on—an opportunity to start another store in more northern Sausalito. "It was an 18,000-square- foot regular supermarket, so we kept core grocery items but added natural and specialty foods," says Bennett, who describes the duo's vision as the best of both worlds. "We were early adopters in moving natural foods into a larger arena," Bennett says, adding that they have always been forward- thinking. Case in point: the San Francisco Mollie's that opened in 1998 was reportedly the first grocery store in the world to have a Starbucks inside. "That was our smallest store [at the time] with 9,500 square feet but the second highest in sales," he notes. The lat- est of the nine Bay Area–spanning stores opened in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood in 2011. Points of Distinction…As Mollie's has expanded over the past two decades, the business has held fast to Bennett and Stone's original vision to offer the best of both worlds: core grocery items along with natural and specialty food items. From their smallest location (6,500 square feet) to their largest (44,000 square feet), Mollie Stone's strives to offer shoppers what Bennett calls extreme customer service. "Our mission is to surpass customer expectations with superior service. One of the ways we accomplish that is by recruiting qual- ity employees," Bennett says of the 600 people the chain employs. Along with a commitment to having a great staff, Mollie Stone's is dedicated to giving back to the communities that have made it thrive. Over the past 25 years, the business has given more than $2.5 million to local schools and made donations to the Bay Area Food Bank. In stores, the founders concentrate on keeping heavy and complete inventory, with produce holding the title of best-selling department, followed by service deli. Year Opened: 1986 Type of Business: Grocery offering specialty and natural foods with nine Bay Area locations Outstanding Features: to widespread group of grocery consumers through education with sampling, in-store demos and cross-merchandising Introducing specialty and natural foods Contact: molliestones.com Dave Bennett 66 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE ❘ specialtyfood.com How It Keeps Innovating…Always keeping an eye on the future, two years ago Bennett and Stone hired a company to edu- cate them on all the possibilities of social networking. "We wanted to look at the ways we could communicate with our customers," Bennett explains. The consulting led them to hire a full-time staff member last year to manage the Mollie Stone's website, as well as its Facebook, Twitter and Yelp accounts. "We want to position ourselves to look at search-engine optimization and feedback from customers," Bennett says. "We're interested in how people are going to shop using mobile technology. We are committed to building new types of relationships with our customers." With their dedication to social networking, Bennett adds that Mollie Stone's is following the social media presence of specialty food companies to find opportunities to partner. The first partnership, still under wraps, is set to roll out this summer.—D.M.

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