The Importance of Being Haddad’s Market
By Greg Speck
Mark Wrhel, owner of Haddad’s Market knew that many people were devastated by the fire and the destruction of the Haddad’s Market, in January of this year. He knew his customers had really depended on the store for relative ease and closeness. He knew they were left to choose a store out of West Peoria, and he knew it would be harder for older people to drive further distances.
So, when Wrhel and his architect friend sat down to discuss his vision for the new store, he deliberately tried to fit into the West Peoria older residential homes and small business style architecture. According to Wrhel, “the new store has a more classical décor with subtle shades of red brick.” He didn’t want just a metal building or something nondescript for the neighborhood. He increased Haddad’s by 20 square feet from the previous Haddad’s Market. Wrhel further explained “that once Haddad’s Market was being constructed, the architectural draft plan became real!”
“West Peoria is a quiet town and is very neighborly and friendly,” said Wrhel. “People introduce themselves.” He compared West Peoria to being similar to the television town of Mayberry. Wrhel explains that people realize the distinction that Haddad’s Market is not only a small business, but is also an integral part of West Peoria. Employees live relatively close to Haddad’s.
Wrhel is very involved within the community. He has organized the West Bluff Parade for a number of years because it is very important to him and allows him to bond even more with the town through this event. He has also been a part of the West Peoria City Economic Development Commission, which he says has “allowed me to interact with local small businesses and to help ‘keep them here.” According to Wrhel, the city has doubled in land growth, and he is proud to have been a part of that.
Much thought goes into the hiring of employees at Haddad’s Market. They must be able to interact with others, including other employees and customers. They live relatively local. As much as possible, according to Wrhel, Haddad’s tries to hire the children of employees. When those siblings grow up and go to college or to other endeavors, the younger siblings are hired when possible. Wrhel feels that hiring the family keeps the bond going with Haddad’s and the family gives back to the community.
“Haddad’s employees are trained to do everything” according to Wrhel. “They must be easy to talk to, and cannot be afraid to say please and thank you. They must be willing to greet customers and smile at them.” That first acknow-ledgement is important to the customer. The philosophy of Haddad’s Market is that the “employees must be good at chit chat. They should also be able to ask a customer a friendly questions or comment on some detail of the customer’s life.”
It was decided not to put in self-checkouts, because he wanted customers to interact with the people of the store. Wrhel said that he didn’t want the self checkouts to be a benchmark, because they are efficient.
West Peoria lends itself to getting to know each other. The small town atmosphere, doesn’t work in fast-paced communities, according to Wrhel. According to Haddad’s website, they have been in business since 1964 and have remained family-owned since that date.
Wrhel’s employees are expected to engage the customer. For instance, if a customer can’t find an item, an employee will specifically point out the item. Wrhel said that this contrary to a lot of corporate stores, where the employees just tell customers what aisle the item is located, but never personally take the customer to the item.
The interior of the store is arranged in a “horse shoe” setup. From each department, the employees can view another department. As you enter the store, there is an employee that ready to help a customer choose a meat item. Wrhel points out that this rarely happens in corporate grocery stores, where there are rows of meat sitting in the meat display, already pre-packaged. The Haddad’s meat employee will freshly cut the size of meat that a customer desires and are capable of advising a customer on how to fix a roast. The employee feels free to make suggestions about what vegetables might go with the roast, and suggest other entrees that go with that meal.
While the deli departments at corporate stores may just have already pre-sliced meat or other day-old deli items, Haddad’s Market will cut the meat or cheese or other items, according to the customer’s wishes. Items are rotated to provide choice.
The bakery will have fresh items four mornings a week. Cakes and other bakery items, will be made from scratch, when ordered.
The produce department will always have fresh produce items. Wrhel wants to have more local produce items available to the customers.
“If the customer can’t find a certain item, we will try to find that item and make sure it is on hand.
Another important aspect of Haddad’s Market customer services is the delivery of groceries. This was introduced in 2002 for senior citizens.
According to an article published in the September issue of InterBusiness Issues, Haddad’s was operated by the Haddad family until the late 1980’s when none of the heirs wanted to run the store. Wrhel became the story manager at that time. In 2004, the Haddad family offered to sell the store to Wrhel in order to carry on the tradition of it being a quality, family-owned business.