Forward thinking and an emphasis on fresh produce help Westborn Market maintain its place in a regional market known for independent grocers. The family owned retailer, which has three locations in Dearborn, Berkley and Livonia, Mich., will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.
“I think putting one foot in front of another and moving forward has been key to our success throughout our nearly 50 years in business,” stresses company President Sarkis Mark Anusbigian, who co-owns Westborn Market with his brothers Jeff and Tony. “We try to be visionary in terms of staying ahead of industry trends.”
These trends include the rise of private-label merchandise and a growing demand for locally sourced items. Westborn Market is a partner and judge in Michigan State University’s annual “Making It In Michigan” conference and food show, which spotlights products made by local companies. Westborn features many of the products featured at the show on its shelves and during quarterly “Michigan Days” celebrations in the parking lot of its Dearborn store.
In addition to carrying local and regional brands, Westborn Market looks to local manufacturers to provide many of the items it carries under its own private labels. These include barbecue sauce, mustard, pasta sauce, pickles, popcorn and bottled water, Anusbigian says.
Westborn Market purchases local and other items from several southeastern Michigan wholesalers. “There are a lot of independent retail grocers in the Detroit market, so we are able to take advantage of many different wholesalers, where other markets may only have one,” he adds.
Product freshness and quality are high priorities for the company, particularly as produce makes up roughly 30 percent of its sales. Fruits and vegetables are selected fresh daily from an area produce terminal. “We have the luxury of being able to see and select the commodities we sell,” Anusbigian says. “We get to touch, smell and taste what we will stock that day.” Westborn Market plans to enhance its fresh offerings in 2013 with herbs grown in its new 5,000-square-foot greenhouse.
Other store departments that help distinguish Westborn from many of its competitors include its catering department and its full-service floral department. Two of the stores’ three locations boast 3,000-square-foot floral departments, while all three regularly fill flower orders for weddings or funerals. “We’ve really found a niche that sets us apart from conventional or specialty markets,” Anusbigian adds.
Product merchandising also sets Westborn apart. All three locations offer a well-lit, clean and inviting atmosphere to customers, and products are presented with an eye toward flair, including the use of wicker baskets and attractive signage. “We look at things differently than a conventional chain store or competitor might,” Anusbigian says. “There’s a huge difference between merchandising and just filling your store shelves.”
Anusbigian and his brothers run their three stores as efficiently and professionally as possible while maintaining the internal culture and community ties of a family owned, neighborhood grocer.
“Our objective is always to make our stores better,” he explains. “We continue to challenge ourselves to improve our stores, which includes hiring the right people and helping them grow within the company.”
Much of the stores’ marketing efforts are through word of mouth as well as e-blasts, weekly fliers and events such as “Michigan Days.”
Westborn Market also regularly participates in community events such as the Champagne Cruise, a party preceding the Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual classic cars event. Westborn’s Berkley location hosts the party, proceeds from which benefit Forgotten Harvest, a Detroit-area organization. Forgotten Harvest collects surplus prepared and perishable food from grocery stores, restaurants, caterers, farmers, wholesalers and other sources and donates it to 135 emergency food providers in the metro Detroit area. Last year’s event attracted 758 participants and raised approximately $195,000.