‘We almost have too many vendors who want to be involved’
by BETH ALTENA
Expect over 50 vendors offering free delicious samples this Saturday at the Spring Taste of Ric’s at Ric’s Food Center, 6969 Belding Road from noon to 4 p.m. One lucky visitor will receive dozens of delightful samples of deli, meat, grocery and more—a Treger Grill, valued at over $700, will be given away during a free drawing, which will take place after the end of the Spring Taste of Ric’s event.
“We almost have too many vendors who want to be involved in this,” said Dave Brickner, store manager.
Brickner said he looks forward to each of the store’s departments to line up four or five vendors to offer free samples, but more like seven or eight manage to get an invite. This enthusiasm is wonderful for shoppers who turn out for the twice-a-year Taste of Ric’s, but become a little problematic logistically.
“It’s probably hardest in the meat department where they have such a narrow corridor to set up in,” explained Brickner.
Brickner said the event compliments the anniversary of the store opening four years ago, but is a customer appreciation day as well as a chance to show people how much the store has to offer.
“We are so grateful and happy for the support the community has shown us,” Brickner said. “Our customer base is growing all the time. We couldn’t be happier. We had such high hopes when we opened four years ago and then the economy took a dive. It’s probably in part a matter of time, people have learned that we aren’t ordinary. Our customer base is growing every year, but also further out as word gets out we are a pretty special store.”
Brickner said it is the special events his staff plans for—one day weekly specials, the taste events, holidays such as the upcoming Mother’s Day—that add to the store’s appeal.
“Mother’s Day is a really big holiday here,” he noted. “The special dinners people prepare and have a big family gathering, for us it is almost as big as Easter.”
Weekly wine and beer-tastings are another example. Each Saturday (with the exception of May 5 because of the Taste of Ric’s) from 3 to 6 p.m., visitors are able to sample either beer or wine and are usually joined by the brewer or winemaker responsible for the product.
“Kris Thraxton, our receiver and beer/wine expert is really the star in how popular this is,” Brickner said. He added that Thraxton is one of the employees any business is lucky to have on board. “She was my first interview and she was my best interview.”
Usually the beer and wine sampling have a theme, such as last week’s sangria, with fresh fruits from the produce department and a previous white sangria, an unusual product offered by a Michigan vendor.
“Not only do people sample things they might not normally try, we also try to help them with pairings. We roasted a turkey for Thanksgiving; we’ve had prime rib,” said Brickner.
Brickner said the sampling has helped raise awareness of the variety offered at Ric’s in both beer and wine. He said the store’s selection is the best on this side of the state and is in part responsible for the distance people are willing to drive to shop there.
“It’s really nuts. It’s almost as involved as the Taste of Ric’s,” he said of the popularity of the Saturday samplings.
In addition to the events the store already undertakes, Brickner looks forward to offering cooking classes, which he thinks will be another aspect of the store customers will enjoy and look forward to. In addition to dozens of free samples throughout the store, the Taste of Ric’s usually includes live music and roaming mascots.