Santa Maria Sun / Biz Brief
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 32
Spotlight on: El Rancho MarketplaceAlfred Holzheu, owner
BY FRANK GONZALES
Since it was founded in 1966, El Rancho Marketplace has been a mainstay for grocery shoppers in the Santa Ynez Valley. With a second location opening in Pismo Beach’s Pismo Coast Plaza, where Scolari’s Market used to be, owner Alfred Holzheu hopes to extend the reach of his community-oriented business into a greater expanse of the Central Coast.
Going up against a number of other local markets in the area—not to mention established supermarket chains like Vons and Albertsons—is a tall order, but Holzheu is confident of his market’s positioning.
“We’re kind of a hybrid; we straddle a lot of different groups of people. We sell to [those with] lower incomes all the way up to the very high end, and we do a lot of organic and natural [foods], and you can buy Twinkies and Alpo dog food,” he said.
His business model has proven itself, as the market hasn’t been negatively impacted by the economic downturn.
“We are past our high point, which was in 2007,” Holzheu said.
The original El Rancho Marketplace, located across the street from Santa Ynez High School in Solvang, has met the needs of the surrounding community for fresh and local foods for 46 years. Holzheu bought the market from his father Helmut in 1988. A master butcher who immigrated to the United States in 1954 from Bavaria, Helmut bought the market after working in San Luis Obispo as a meat manager.
With its strategic location on Route 246 between Santa Ynez and Solvang, the market serves a large section of the valley. Along with brand-name everyday essentials, the market offers a large selection of fresh local produce, a full-service meat counter, many domestic and imported spirits, and a wide variety of foods prepared under the direction of six chefs.
Thanks to its continued success, Holzheu decided to add a second branch, which wasn’t easy.
“We had probably gone through this process at least 10 times over the last several years,” he said.
But once Scolari’s Market closed, Holzheu contacted the landlord. “The store in Pismo was owned by a guy named Rick Gamble, and he liked us. He decided to take a chance on us,” Holzheu said.
In addition to acquiring the lease for the new location, Holzheu found partners to invest in its transformation. He said the second El Rancho will have about 150 new employees to start and could climb to 200. The original store employs about 100 people.
Setting up the new location was also a challenge: “It’s just a ton of work. There are a lot of things to juggle to begin with, but now we’re compressing [the work] into a very short timeframe,” he said. “And we gutted the place—we took the floors off, we put the ceilings out, we completely changed it—because it was a conventional supermarket and we needed to make it more like what we are, which is a big deli and prepared foods and sushi and that sort of thing.”
Holzheu said that he wasn’t alone in funding this transformation, which cost upward of $4 million.
He said the money was raised from investors and something called Fresh Works, which is a Washington, D.C.-based program to help start supermarkets all over the United States.”
When asked how he likes being in the grocery business, Holzheu stated, “If you really like people and you really like to eat, it’s a great thing to do.”
Holzheu plans to open the Pismo Beach market on Nov. 15.
• After weeks of speculation, ERGS XIV REO Owner, L.L.C. announced the purchase of the downtown Santa Maria Town Center mall on Oct. 10.
The investment group said it intends to develop a 14-screen Regal movie theater on the site of the former Gottschalks department store. Demolition is expected to begin this fall, with construction on the multiplex to start in early 2013.
Other plans include revitalization of common areas to attract additional tenants, as well as a soccer training facility, a baseball and softball center, and a skateboarding park on the mall’s second floor.
Archon Group will serve as asset manager. Architectural Ventures will serve as the operating partner.
For more information, visit santamariatowncenter.com.
Intern Frank Gonzales wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Highlights were written and compiled by Jeremy Thomas. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.
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