After noticing a void in the Asian food market in the area in which he lived, Roger Chen founded Tawa Supermarket in 1984. The business began as a single-location operation in Westminster, Calif., but throughout the last two and a half decades, it has grown significantly.
Today, Tawa operates 28 grocery stores in two states—26 in California and two in Washington. The company’s team plans to open an additional two locations in Northern California later this year, and all of the locations will operate under the name 99 Ranch Market.
One of the factors influencing the chain’s growth is its expanding customer base. When Chen’s first store opened, it primarily attracted individuals who had recently immigrated to the US and were looking for authentic Asian food. Now, the stores serve a much wider customer base. “We are an Asian supermarket chain, but we do not exclusively target an Asian demographic,” said Teddy Chow, marketing manager.
“Our goal is to welcome each and every customer and provide her or him with quality products and service. I am glad to see that the number of non-Asian customers that come into our store has gradually increased,” he added, noting that the team at each store makes a strong effort to get feedback from all of its customers and uses this information to make changes in the future.
In addition to the 99 Ranch Market stores Tawa owns and operates, the organization has founded independent licensee stores in Nevada and Indonesia.
Rules to work by
Throughout the years, the 99 Ranch Market chain has been successful because its team consists of employees who strongly believe in and adhere to the following methods:
- Fostering innovation by absorbing new business concepts and management techniques and updating equipment and technology.
- Providing customers with the best service and displaying professionalism.
- Earning public trust through honesty and integrity.
- Emphasizing stable growth.
- Investing in human resources by training employees and bringing out their full potential.
- Sharing profit by giving back to the community.
The administrative team at 99 Ranch Market uses its clearly defined vision to lead a hard-working and experienced team of employees. This, combined with the wide range of low-price, high-quality products it offers, has allowed the business to expand significantly in recent years.
The store managers and other team members constantly re-evaluate the products they stock at each location to ensure customers have access to the best food items in the market at any given time. “We recognize that the organization’s success relies mainly on our ability to continuously develop and improve,” Chow said.
To further this effort, the company’s team developed a private label, which it now stocks at all of its stores. According to Chow, the private label has helped build trust among the chain’s customer base. “They know that if we are willing to put our name on a product, it has to be great,” he said.
The team at 99 Ranch Market partners with outside companies to develop and manufacture a variety of products for its private label. The effort results in an almost continuous flow of new items, but among the most stable and popular are the brand’s noodles and jasmine rice.
Creating a unique environment
The team at 99 Ranch Market knows that the secret of its success isn’t just in the products it stocks—it’s also in the employees it hires. Front-line employees play a vital role in the operation of any retail outlet, and grocery stores are no exception. In addition to being knowledgeable about products, it’s important for employees to be friendly and create a welcoming atmosphere that encourages customer to return.
“We continue to differentiate ourselves from our competition by providing a store environment that is unique,” Chow said. He went on to explain that when recruiting new employees, the company’s team dedicates a lot of time and energy to the effort, which helps ensure the individuals hired fit in will with the existing team.
By carefully selecting new employees, the organization is able to keep its employee turnover rate low. In the end, this saves the organization time and money. Saving money by avoiding any unnecessary costs is an important initiative for all businesses today, but Chow said it’s especially important for grocery stores.
“Because supermarkets typically run on extremely low profit margins, the need for a lean and efficient operating model is critical,” he added.
To encourage long-term employment among all sectors of staff, 99 Ranch Market gives its employees several opportunities to advance their careers. Through on-the-job training, employees are able to increase their knowledge base in various areas, which helps them adapt when shifts occur in the market.
“Our employees are given the opportunity to turn their jobs into rewarding, life-long careers in the supermarket industry,” Chow said. “As a result, we have made noticeable improvements in the productivity of our workforce.”