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Food With A View

The city that likes to tout itself as the entertainment capital of the world will now audition retail-tainment.

Glazier’s Food Marketplace, which quietly opened at 8530 W. Warm Springs Road last week as one of the rare independent supermarkets in Las Vegas, will try to lure shoppers in part by moving front and center some of the fresh food preparation normally done behind the scenes.

Whether it’s carving up a side of beef, grinding and stuffing sausage or mixing one of the in-house recipe salads, shoppers will be able to watch the process, tagged by some as retail-tainment, instead of just picking a package off a shelf.

With its large floor — possibly the largest supermarket in the valley at 68,000 square feet — Glazier’s stocks a broader-than-average assortment of items, such as mustards and seafood, and has a salad bar and a sit-down dining section with a player grand piano. Glazier’s will attempt to carve out a niche in an area dominated by well-entrenched chains and suffering from the housing market implosion.

"What we have attempted to do is take into account all the things we found that we did or didn’t like about the supermarket experience," said industry veteran William Glazier, president and co-owner with his wife, Helen. "As an independent store, ours is a living laboratory that will continually evolve."

For example, the 25 different types of sausage now in the display case could shrink by half within a year, depending on what sells. But what will likely stay are the unusually open aisles, about two feet wider than normal in the packaged goods area, and the classical music in the background designed to calm shoppers into taking their time and perhaps picking up a few more items.

Glazier declined to reveal his costs for outfitting the store, part of a strip mall, but Reed Construction Data pegged it at $6 million.

How well the Glazier’s format will fare is open to question. "On occasion, there is a history of people doing quite well at this," said Willard Bishop, a supermarket consultant in Barrington, Ill. "There is no reason an independent has to be constrained to a smaller store," although larger stores require higher sales volumes to run profitably.

He credits features such as sit-down dining as a way to distinguish Glazier’s from rivals. "I can think of only two or three other stores that have used a piano to try to build a crowd," he said.

But Glazier’s also faces potential potholes in the road. "Las Vegas is not one of the easiest places to open an independent," said consultant David Livingston in Waukeska, Wisc. "It’s a very competitive market."

Besides the incumbents such as Smith’s, Albertson’s and Vons, Wal-Mart has built a major presence with combination merchandise and grocery stores.

In the current economy, Livingston added, "Price is the most important factor. It’s hard for an independent to be in the range of Wal-Mart."

A distinct personality for the store that will cement customer loyalty, even with different features, can take years or decades to develop, he said.

Further, the store’s location in the southwest corner of the valley may be a near-term handicap. Glazier started planning the store about three years ago, more than a year before he moved here from eastern Pennsylvania, when that area was booming. But since then, growth has largely stopped; the nearby Rhodes Ranch development is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

However, Glazier said, "We have been very conservative in our financial pro formas and demographics," so the store can absorb the construction slowdown.

Glazier, 64, started in the business 48 years ago. He eventually worked himself up to owning four stores in the Philadelphia area, and he sold them for an undisclosed price in 2000. Although an independent, he was part of the Wakefern Food Corp. co-operative, a powerful force in the Northeast with sales of $10 billion under the ShopRite name.

After a few years of retirement, he developed the urge to get back into the business, settling on Las Vegas as a growth market with very little independent presence. Besides providing a new mission for he and his wife, whose personal recipes are used for the salads under the Mrs. G’s label, Glazier’s will eventually be turned over to daughter Helen Glazier-Megill and son-in-law Bill Megill, both vice presidents.

The current plan calls for a second location in Henderson opening next summer, but nothing definite beyond that.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@ lvbusinesspress.com or 702-387-5290.

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