Store Director David Brickner said he doesn’t mind the case of nerves he gets before a tasting event at Ric’s Food Center.
“You can really sense the energy and how excited everyone is,” he said of the events the store at 6767 Belding Road hosts several times a year. “Each one has only been bigger and better than the one before,” he stated.
The spring Taste of Ric’s is Saturday, May 1 from noon to 4 p.m. The last Taste of Ric’s was in December, 2009 in the middle of a Michigan snow and ice storm. Hundreds still turned out for the free taste samples and other in-store events of the day.
Brickner said his department managers and dozens of vendors offer their free samples and recipe advice, and that interacting with so many people is a treat and a pleasure.
“They see the value in it, too. This is a way they can showcase their product to hundreds and hundreds of people in one day,” Brickner pointed out. Brickner said his store, like the other Ric’s Food Centers, look for local suppliers where possible. These types of providers—often smaller businesses—have a strong passion for their product.
Brickner used the example of Janie’s Cookie Company, which is located in Grand Rapids and is a small business success story. Ric’s corporate, Brickner said, believes strongly in the value of building relationships—with their vendors, their customers, and their communities.
“I feel really fortunate to be part of a company that believes in that, because I believe in that, too,” Brickner said. He said the employees at the store look forward to special events as much as the customers do, and their enthusiasm contributes to the success of the day.
“All I had to do was drop the word and vendors started signing up for this,” Brickner stated. “Customers love to see us do something so fun. We know by their response that they love it.”
Brickner credits his staff with much of the success in events such as these and in the store itself. This is another philosophy that comes from corporate but goes right down to every individual involved in the company.
“I’m a person who gets very animated about things,” he said. “Everyone around gets caught up in it too.” Brickner said everyone works hard ahead of and during their events, but the real fun comes from seeing customers having a good time. “They all have a blast.”
Throughout the store vendors and departments will have a wide variety of things to try and this event will have a carnival theme. A bouncy house outside will appeal to youngsters, as will a fish pond for prizes and other carnival-style attractions.
Each event the deli takes on a large portion of the work and they are often the first samples customers see. Brickner said people lined up out the door last time. “Don’t stand in line. There is food everywhere,” he advised.
He said he kept urging people to step away from the deli line because they didn’t have to start there and go in order. “There was so much food, by the time they went around the store they couldn’t eat anymore.”
The meat department at Ric’s is one of the company’s gems, and Brickner said he expects they will offer samples of the hand-made Kielbasa again, and likely ham, and will definitely have Pop’s Bare Bones BBQ sauce on feature.
Ric’s was one of only a few vendors offering food samples at this year’s Community Expo at Rockford High School. It was another event Brickner was worried about beforehand.
“It went fine,” he said. Other businesses came up to them during Expo and asked how he and his helpers were keeping up with the traffic. “We’re kind of used to it,” he said. “We’ve been doing these and I always get nerves but each one has been better than the last.”
Brickner said even his larger vendors, such as Frito Lay or Nabisco are on board enthusiastically.
“We are really getting a reputation as doing very well here, and I credit the employees with that,” Brickner said of his store.
“It takes a lot of people to do one of these events, and I think our customers appreciate that. It takes our employees, but also people from all over the state and even all over the country. They really wait and watch for this.”