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I Went To Martin’s. I Shopped At Martin’s. Martin’s, You Are No Ukrops!

I am usually the first one home from work by a couple of hours or so, and I try to have dinner ready when my wife gets home. Which also means I do most of the grocery shopping.

And just as a matter of disclosure, I was not a Ukrop’s fan. But I do get the attraction. Ukrop’s was always clean, the employees were all super nice and the owners were some of the best people on earth.

But I am not in Ukrop’s targeted demographic.

Their employees spend a lot of time chopping, slicing and dicing meats and vegetables so all you have to do is toss things in a pan, heat and eat. Perfect for both the busy and the lazy. But all this love and attention has a price. Higher prices, in fact.

I have professional chef’s knives, professional cookware and enough culinary skills that I prefer to do all the preparation myself. So freshness and lower prices are what I look for in a Supermarket. And with the self service checkouts, I don’t even want to or need to speak to anyone.

So, the things that so many people find extraordinary about Ukrop’s are totally wasted on me.

Now that Martin’s has replaced Ukrop’s, I thought I would go in and have a look around.

Yesterday, April 19th was opening day at the Mechanicsville location. I walked in the door, grabbed a cart and began foraging for the evening’s dinner.

There was a long line – about 8 people – queued up to obtain a “Bonus Buy” shopper’s card. I walked on by and was immediately confronted by a display of gorgeous strawberries. Two one pound containers for $5 or one two pound container for $4.98.

Drat. Need a bonus card or the price is 8 bucks. I got in the line and 10 minutes later I had the card and two key fobs in hand. Grabbed a 2 pound container of berries and headed to the meat section to decide on the evening’s protein.

A big sign said $9.99 per pound steaks $3 off. Will ring up at register with bonus card. Ok. Got that covered. $6.99 is about a dollar more than the BJ’s warehouse nearby, but no big deal. These looked pretty good.

Well, I now needed to grab some baking potatoes. Here we go with the expensive convenience foods. $1.29 each for the plastic wrapped  spuds, pretty expensive, but what the heck.

Went to grab some sour cream and walked by the small beer cooler. Not enough to make a dent in the market’s profit margin, more of a statement.

“That’s right. We sell beer! You ain’t in Ukrop’s anymore.”

Ok. Point taken.

A quick spin around the perimeter and through the bakery section. Nothing remotely resembling a good deal, so on to the self service checkout.

Scanned my newly acquired bonus shopper’s card and ran the strawberries across the scanner.

$7.98. Crap! Not $4.98? What gives?

Oh, girl! I directed at the three employees huddling around the podium / guard stand.

“This is supposed to be on sale with the bonus card.”

“Do you have a bonus card?” She asked.

I waved the card.

“Did you scan it?”

Ok. Now that’s pretty insulting. I bit my tongue and nodded my head as if she asked a relevant question.

“It probably will take the money off at the end.” She hoped.

Probably? Really?

“Ok. We’ll see.” I said.

I rang up the rest of the order and the total did not include the $3 off for the strawberries.

“I will go check” she said. And off she went. She returned after several minutes and said “You have the two pound package. You should have picked up two of the one pound packages.”

Umm. No. “Read the other sign. It clearly says 2 pound package $4.98 with card.”

“I’ll be back” she said.

Meanwhile, looking at my total, I completely forgot about the $3 per pound on the raw cows.

$9.99 per pound!!! What? The steaks rang up wrong as well.

She returned and credited the $3.00 for the Strawberries.

I told her about the steaks.

“I’ll be back” she said.

She returned after what seemed an eternity and said “The steaks on sale were not the ones near the sign, the ones on sale are at the other end of the meat case.”

Crap. I am going to get arrested for what I was about to do.

Deep breath. Blow it out slowly.

I slid my debit card in the machine, paid the ridiculously high price, grabbed my bag of dinner and as I walked by the girl, I handed her my “bonus” card.

“Sir, you will need that next time you come in” she said.

“There won’t be a next time,” I said through clinched teeth.

“Oh,” was all she could say.

Just to blow off some of the steam, I walked past another exiting customer on the way to my car and said “I will not be back here.”

She mumbled something in Spanish and I realized she didn’t understand a thing I had said.

And when I got home, I decided to snack on a few strawberries to get the bad taste of Martin’s out of my mouth. Apparently, beauty is only one row deep when it comes to their strawberries. The ones underneath were smaller and not ripe. One was moldy. Not an uncommon find with strawberries, but this was opening day! Mold already?

It was also closing day for me as far as Martin’s goes.

Prediction: Ukrop’s market share splits between Food Dog and Kroger. Martin’s retains little,

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog.Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

11 Responses to “I Went To Martin’s. I Shopped At Martin’s. Martin’s, You Are No Ukrops!”

  1. SWAC Girl says:

    My laugh-out-loud of the morning! I’ve linked….

  2. cargosquid says:

    If this turns out to be the customary way of doing things, I predict that Martin’s will be below Food Lion and be somewhere around Winn Dixie. If in business at all…..

    Heck, I miss Hannaford’s but Kroger is a close second.

    I’ve never seen such a close concentration of grocery stores in any city that I’ve lived in. Between Glenside to Short Pump there are, at least 10 grocery stores of one type or another. In one case there is Sam’s Club, Costco, Krogers, and Ukrops within a half mile. And that’s just along Broad Street.

    Good luck to them. They’ll need it.

  3. YankeePhil says:

    It has to be new store jitters. There are 2 Martin’s out here. I have never had a problem such as you described.It has always been a favorable experience.

    A friend describes Martins as the store you shop on the outside aisles. Fruits and veggies are 1st class. The Deli has Boars Head brand cold cuts. The fish and deli counters are top notch. The bakery is the best around these parts.
    The center aisles are where they make their money. If you go up and down these aisles, you pay top dollar, unless you have the bonus card and read the circular.It is a good store to shop with a circular. The circular prices beat Food Lion, Krogers, and compare well with Walmart.

    The bonus card is their tool. It builds customer loyalty. It tracks shopping trends. It tells them which type of marketing works best.

    The money comes off at the end. I rarely shop there where I don’t take off 25-30% of the total. But you must be a discriminating shopper. A few impulse buys and all your savings could be washed away.

    I was never at Ukrops. I can’t compare. But go there and have a muffin and a coffee, do some blogging, and give it another shot.

    I love Costco and BJ’s, but sometimes I don’t have room for a 1 gallon bottle of ketchup.

    • Tom White says:

      Phil, If the prices went down when the name changed, my opinion would be different, most likely. What I found was a less than friendly store demanding high prices. Ukrops has a niche, and went out of their way with the best customer service on the planet. Happy employees, no Sunday work, decent pay and benefits. But their prices reflected the atmosphere.

      I will say it LOOKS like Ukrops, but it is not. The service and “feel” of the place is a Food Lion.

      But you are correct about the “sale” items and loyalty card. But Food Lion, Kroger and most of the rest do the same thing. And BJ’s and Sam’s are not really much cheaper on most things, particularly meat and produce.

      And I went in expecting the prices to be lower than Ukrops, but the service to be more in line with other places as well. I just couldn’t imagine they could have a Food Line attitude and Ukrops prices. There is just not a “market” for that in Richmond.

      It will be interesting to hear the thoughts of former Ukrop’s lovers on Martin’s. I am sure SWAC Girl will update us. I was NOT a Ukrop’s lover, so I only see Martin’s as Ukrops Lite.

      And I am familiar with opening Grocery stores. I worked for Safeway in the 70’s while in High School and was assigned to the brand new “flagship” store near the Richmond Fairgrounds on opening day. While not everything was perfect, we were told to bend over backwards to make it right. Wrong price? You get the lower one. They wanted to make sure people did not have a bad experience like I did at Martin’s even if they lost a few bucks. You have to build a customer base.

      Martin’s is in a whole different category. They have to try to keep the Ukrop’s market share who are some of the most discriminating customers there are. And they LOVED Ukrops. If they are not treated right from the get go, they will get gone.

      Ukrops is the only grocery store I have ever seen that had not only loyal customers, but emotionally connected customers.

  4. Joe says:

    It was the first day they were open; you should probably calm down and maybe learn to not get so angry over things. I mean, you don’t have to work very long hours and you can afford to put dinner on the table….is your life REALLY that hard?

    “She mumbled something in Spanish and I realized she didn’t understand a thing I had said.”

    OH…now I get it. You’re one of THOSE people. Point taken.

    • Tom White says:

      Joe, I was not “so angry”. And you might be the only person that read this and gathered I am an angry racist.

      The point of the story was Martin’s replaced Ukrops. Ukrops was too expensive FOR ME, but I understand the customer base that loved them. Some people don’t mind paying a higher price for higher service. Martin’s has the higher prices, but NOT the service.

      And the point of the person not understanding my attempt at griping was not a reflection on some supposed prejudice I hold, but rather a comment on the entire experience I suffered at Martin’s. Go have a read of SWAC Girl’s comments on this post. She got the humor as I intended it.

      http://swacgirl.blogspot.com/

  5. Bob K. says:

    Martins Should Have Changed to Ukrops

    Ukrops had really strong brand in the Richmond/Williamsburg area. Their logo is, er, was right up there with ‘Whole Foods.’ I never actually lived in a city with a Ukrops but discovered their cafe and it was a favorite on trips to Richmond and Williamsburg. The people who worked there were genuine in their desire to help you.

    Martins’ logo looks like an outtake from the Food Lion past… when it was Food Town, LFPINC. Fishersville Food Lion has their new look and if that was the first Food Lion you ever saw, You’d be really impressed. But no one acts like you are an old friend when you walk in the door and no one insists on carrying your bag to your car. It’s still chain discount grocery land behind that fancy facade.

    Martins in Staunton is actually pretty classy inside. I can only wonder why they don’t want to rebrand everything they own with their new aquisition. Perhaps they realize that it can’t be done.

    Ukrops is the kind of legendary institution that only a family like Ukrops can build. There are a few rare individuals who can build a business on real relationships, the Ukrops were like that. I work with a print shop in Charlottesville where the owner has built something similar. At T&N Printing every employee treats you extra special. It’s not the stupid ‘seminar greeting’ you get at chains… it’s real. Good people infect their staff with the real deal. You can’t put that in a company manual.

    I’m going to miss Ukrops.

  6. AP says:

    Tom, you and I don’t agree on much, but you’re in my strike zone with this one. Experiences like this happen to me all too frequently and I’m sure I’m gonna pop an aneurism over it one day.

  7. mike says:

    Tom,

    I completely agree with your assessment. Just returned from my first visit. Happy that they expanded their veg and fruit, but could not find any other redeeming traits. Customer service? Just like everyone else. Better quality? Nope. Super low prices? See Trader Joes.

    Plus, I don’t think they are very “Richmond.” For instance, I found the bread flour and it was enriched and bromated Pillsbury. Just a nit, but why not King Arthur unbleached? Richmond is a foodie town. A town that appreciates quality and I didn’t seen anything that would distinguish Martin’s.

    Not the cheapest, not the best, just average; and we have Kroger and Food Lion for that. I’ll check in again in a few months to give them a chance to refine their product mix, but for now, I’ll keep making the drive from the Fan to TJ’s and Whole Foods.

  8. Bindle Lokey says:

    I was a Ukrop’s customer, now a Martin’s customer. I’ve witnessed the transition from old to new. I certainly am not opposed to change and understand that all good things come to an end. Just to be clear I was not a passionate Ukrop’s supporter either. I think the prices were a little high, and prepared foods a bit bland, but the service and quality were second to none. That is why I can understand why Martin’s would want to buy the Ukrop’s name for the kitchen. But now I have come to learn what a trick that was.

    The last three times that I was in one of the Martin’s stores, proudly displaying the Ukrop’s name over the kitchen area, the pizzas were burnt ( OK, obviously over cooked ), the staff ignored me for busy work behind the scenes ( there were four packing up foods and no other customers around me ), and I can tell that the recipes or at least the preparation methods have changed. My chicken pesto panani had a small sliver of bone in it. I purchased a quiche and the bottom of the tin pan had egg all over it, which I had to clean out of my oven and off of my counter top.

    And the people working checkout are new to the job. Fumbling around with the key pads and codes, not the seasoned efficient staff that Ukrop’s had. Oh, and carrying the groceries out to the car … I was in there a few days after the grand opening and they did, but the last time I was there, it was raining and the person bagging my groceries filled my cart with my bags and said have a nice day. She was not about to go out in the rain.

    Shame on Martin’s for purchasing the Ukrop’s kitchen brand then trashing it like they have. If they think that we are fooled into thinking that there is any resemblance of the Ukrop’s kitchen commitment to service and quality, they are mistaken and we should be insulted.

    Bindle

  9. Ben says:

    You can't expect all the bugs to be worked out when a brand new store opens up…….. I'm pretty sure the pricing systems and everything were changed over from Ukrop's.

    I found Martin's to be hectic at first too but they are much better now, and most of the employee's are still ex-Ukrop's people and they are excellent.

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