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Groceries For 7 Decades

tomsmarketWhen Tom Deering found he had a bumper crop of cherries, he used the profits to open a small food store in Traverse City. Deering’s Market on 11th Street opened in May of 1946. This month, the chain, renamed Tom’s Markets, is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

Dan Deering, now 82, started working at his father’s store when he was 12 years old. “I did whatever was needed: bagged, helped my father, worked in the meat department. I dressed chickens, turkeys, rabbits. That was my job when I came home from school,” he says.

As the years went by, that job changed. “We were buying chickens that were already slaughtered and dressed,” says Deering, though he, his father and the other butchers still cut the meat in the store, a tradition that continues today.

Deering has seen drastic change in the industry, yet he says the core business isn’t all that different from 1946. “We try to take good care of the customers. We’re very particular about customer service and cleanliness,” he says.

That emphasis extends to the tradition of Tom’s employees loading groceries into customers’ cars, which started when the company built its 14th Street store with an overhang along the front. It was an extra customer service – though it had the added benefit of keeping the carts from becoming battered and rusty (“my father’s extremely particular about the carts,” says daughter Jane Deering).

Today Jane her sister Christy Kuhnke run the operation; Dan is the CEO and keeps his hand in the business, talking to his daughters most every day and frequently stopping into the stores.

The sisters began working at Tom’s when they were nine.

“We’re actually fifth-generation grocers,” Jane adds, explaining that her great-great grandfather had a horse and buggy from which he peddled groceries. “I absolutely love it. It’s in my blood,” she admits.

The company now operates six markets with 300 year-round employees.

Tom’s West Bay opened in 1961. In 1968, the store at 14th and Division opened and the original 11th Street location closed. The Acme store opened in 1983, followed three years later by Cherryland, which closed in 2010. In 1993, Tom’s opened in Northport (which Jane says is the smallest yet most profitable per square foot), and a year later the East Bay store opened. It took another 16 years before another appeared, this time in Interlochen. “We had purchased the land in 1990. We thought Interlochen would grow,” Jane says.

Since that very first store opened, the biggest-selling item at Tom’s has remained the same: milk (though back then it was whole milk and today it’s 2 percent). In the produce section, the most popular item year in and year out is bananas, though the big surprise is the number two best produce seller.

“For the last five years, it’s been avocados,” Jane says. And another surprise: Produce now outsells meat.

Jane says the stores will mark the 70th anniversary with in-store specials throughout the month. And of course, you can’t have a birthday party without cake; every Friday in May shoppers in all Tom’s Markets will be treated to cake.

Source: The Ticker
Original Article: Groceries For 7 Decades

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