Market Place Family Foods is working to earn the community’s business after reporting the store isn’t doing as well as it should be. They’ve made some changes and are hoping that with the public’s input further changes will draw more people to shop at the local store.

Marco Rennie, who oversees the operation of the Family Foods store, said the store has been open for a little more than a year and progress has been slow.

“We are not giving the community what they want,” he said. “We’re asking ourselves what would the La Grande community embrace?”

To help find the solution, the grocery store staff decided to conduct a survey.

“The best way to (get answers) is to ask for honest feedback,” he said. “We want to cater to the community’s needs.”

The survey asked people to rate several things about the store including its overall appearance, the quality of its products and value of items. The survey also requested feedback on the team members who work there.

The Observer received copies of 11 of the 24 surveys, which were given anonymously, and compiled the answers.

Of the surveys provided to The Observer, the store’s overall appearance received six “memorable” ratings, three “neutral” and one each of “forgettable” and “excellent.”

Seven surveyors rated the grocery store’s meat selection as “neutral”; the store’s produce and Bistro sections each received five “neutral” votes.

In response to the question of overall value/cost of products compared to other stores, Family Foods received four votes for being “too expensive,” four for “some items were more expensive,” two for “I didn’t notice a price difference either way,” and one person didn’t answer.

One surveyor attached a price comparison between several items available at Family Foods, Walmart and Safeway. According to the information the surveyor provided, while Walmart had the lowest prices on average, the prices for Safeway and Family Foods were fairly comparable across the board (the surveyor used the original prices of the items and did not count the sale prices).

The Observer also went to the three grocery stores and compared prices of cheese, bread and eggs of the same brand. Walmart’s prices were the lowest for all three items, but the Safeway and Market Place Family Food prices were nearly identical.

“We are hearing about the prices (being too high) on the survey,” Rennie said.

He said people have a preconceived notion that a small grocery store is going to be more expensive, but that is not necessarily the case.

“Comparing the three stores, Walmart is cheaper, but the quality of product (may not be) as good,” said Rennie, who had talked to the surveyor who compared all the prices. “We changed wholesalers about five months ago and the prices changed. It’s taken five months to start running specials or sales at the store. We’ll now have SuperValu as our wholesaler and they’re generally more aggressive in their pricing.”

SuperValu, which has its headquarters in Minnesota, is one of the largest wholesalers in the country, Rennie said.

“Through them, we can offer better prices than ever before,” he said.

Cheaper prices is what people wanted, according to the surveys.

“I like the local feel, but likely won’t shop here because of the prices,” one surveyor wrote. “I live close to Walmart so its convenient (location) and overall prices means I usually shop there.”

Rennie and some of the other staff at Family Foods paln to ask those who participated in the survey and ask them to join a discussion early next week to get more feedback about the store.

“I want to hear good, honest feedback,” he said. “I want to hear what they like, but more important I want to find out how I can earn their business. We can’t be all things for all people (but) we want to give them products they can’t get anywhere else.”

Rennie said they’ll work toward getting more local vendors into the store. They offer some local meats and they’re thinking about working with vendors who sell at the farmer’s market. People like local produce, but the problem is it’s confined by the season, he said.

“We’re open to constructive criticism,” Rennie said. “We want people’s input. If they want to drop a note at the store or have a coffee with us, where we can discuss their ideas, then we want that.”