Celebrate store’s fourth year serving Rockford
by BETH ALTENA
Taste the experience of dozens of vendors serving you their very best—all for free Saturday, Dec. 3 from noon to 4 p.m. at the annual Christmas Taste of Ric’s event at the local food center at 6767 Belding Road. Store Director David Brickner said the event has evolved naturally through the excitement and enthusiasm of his staff and customers.
“It happened on its own,” Brickner stated of the generosity of vendors who seem to almost try to outdo one another with the impressive quality and quantity of free samples they hand out with wide smiles.
The store holds the Taste of Ric’s events twice a year and this one is a special event as it also serves as a birthday party to the local store, which opened its doors four years ago.
As many as four thousand people visit during the Taste events, but Brickner said an exact count is difficult during the busy occasions. Live entertainment always adds to the party-like atmosphere. This year the Rockford High School choir will share their voices as they perform holiday favorites. In the past, horse-drawn carriage rides have added to the holiday festivities. Santa will be ready with his elf helpers to hear youngsters’ Christmas wishes and pose for a photo or two.
Brickner said those who stop in to the store—either regular customers or people who have yet to experience what a family-owned, customer-service oriented store like Ric’s has to offer—are always pleasantly surprised. The samples vendors offer are always generous portions, a marked contrast to the typical tiny-spoon tastes provided at food shows.
“I don’t think they are shamed into giving more,” speculated Brickner of the vendor generosity. “I think they realize this is a big deal.”
A chance to interact with thousands of customers and show off what you do best is a big deal to any local product provider, as is proof by the continuing success of the Rockford Community Expo each March, but also proved by the turnout for each Taste of Ric’s. Brickner said the store invites as many of their vendors as can be comfortably accommodated for each event—a choreography of no mean feat. He said the Tastes are so popular that each time the vendors are excited to participate, even though it means a significant investment in product and a long day describing their company and what they make.
“By the time it’s over, it feels like it’s ten at night, but everyone is exhilarated,” he said.
Staff of the store also have a busy day for each Taste of Ric’s, but the thrill of having so many people experience the store in just a few hours energizes everyone for weeks ahead.
Brickner said the popularity of each Taste of Ric’s is always a thrill for himself, although he is nervous during the planning. Every time, though, the hard work has paid off, and on the day of the event the festivities run smoothly with many thanks and happy customers.
Despite starting out in a tough economy and being a bit of an underdog with big grocery chains already established, the Rockford Ric’s store has done well and continues to grow and evolve to suit the customer base here in Rockford. Competitive price restructuring and working hard to make sure the store provides the food items customers want at prices they expect is an ongoing goal of the Woodrick family, who owns the Ric’s chain. Brickner said he is always proud of the pricing the store offers, and most especially of their weekly sale items.
Brickner said the store has also become known as a destination for specialty beer and wine, and recently became licensed to offer beer and wine tastings. Held each Saturday afternoon now through the end of the holiday season, customers are invited to sample some of the hottest labels in the industry and in Michigan. Brickner said the relationships the store has nurtured ensure that brewers and wineries have Ric’s on the list of the beverages that are going to be in great demand.
“That might not sound like a big deal, but it is,” he said.
As an example, he said a case of a recent beer that was limited to just six cases and sold for $20 a bottle came their way.
In the near future, several very popular brewers will be offering their wares in the impressive beer and wine section at Ric’s.
Brickner said he is always nervous before a Taste of Ric’s, but is confident this one, like the ones before, will be a great experience. “I’m always so impressed. I’m always really excited,” he stated. “You can talk about it, but you don’t know what it’s really like until you experience it.”
If you would like to taste the love in person Saturday, make time to visit Ric’s. If you have never been to the store—or even if you have—you are sure to be impressed.