Dash’s Marches to its Own Beat
Joe Dash, president of Dash’s Market in upstate NY, knows what it takes to be successful as an independent grocer. The first requirement is an independent streak.
Mr. Dash told The Buffalo News, “We write our own music, hum our own tunes, and dance to our own music,” he said. “We want to have a point of difference. And if we can’t find it, we try to create it. We have to go to market every day with our ‘A’ game. There’s no wiggle room for being substandard.”
Finding and creating a difference for Dash’s has meant weekly seafood deliveries from Hawaii, meats imported from Italy and dry-aged prime beef among other things. The family-owned business is growing with a planned opening of a fourth store in the fall as well as remodels and expansion of its existing stores.
Remarkably, Dash’s success has come even though consumers in the markets he serves have numerous other shopping choices, including Tops Markets, Wegmans and Wal-Mart Supercenters. According to a Scarborough Report survey, 75 percent of consumers in the Buffalo and Niagara areas said they had shopped at a Tops store in the past week. Fifty-two percent had shopped at Wegmans during the same period. Six percent reported shopping at Dash’s.
Mr. Dash doesn’t appear overly concerned by the numbers since he sees his business as offering an alternative for consumers looking for relief from the big box experience. A smaller footprint (about 25,000-square-feet) is an obvious departure and the desire to be different is found on the shelves where a combination of local and long-distance suppliers gives consumers product choices not found in many other stores.
Mark Mahoney, director of operations for Dash’s, said, “We know we’re never going to win the battle to sell Tide against the big guys.”
Mr. Dash told The Buffalo News that he often gets requests to open stores in different communities but he’s not in any rush to grow for growth’s sake. “You can’t do this everywhere. But there’s a handful of neighborhoods where this works.”
Discussion Questions: What can other independents learn from the experience of Dash’s Market? Dash’s differentiates and succeeds by going upscale. Can independent grocers also succeed by going in the opposite direction and catering to less affluent consumers?