Dimitri Vardakastanis and his brother, Bobby, have worked in their family grocery business for 20 years. They took over Haight St. Market and Noriega Produce in San Francisco, which their father, Gus, and grandfather, Dimitri, opened in 1974 and 1985, respectively. Last year, the two brothers began to re-brand the two stores with a new name: Gus's Community Market (415/431-9300 or gussmarket.com), in honor of their father. On Nov. 19, 2015, the company hit another milestone as it opened its third and biggest location to date. Fancy Food & Culinary Products Magazine got the scoop on what it takes to re-brand a decades-old family business.
Fancy Food & Culinary Products Magazine: What was the reason behind the re-branding
of your stores?
Dimitri Vardakastanis: The businesses started off as really small neighborhood markets, and they've grown through the years to be the foundation of the areas that we serve. So naming the stores after the street was something that, back in the day, my dad really felt would help make them into a community market without putting that label on it. But the markets have grown, and the re-brand kind of ties our stores together. A lot of people are moving into San Francisco, and if they move into one district and then move into another district, they'll know it's the same owners.
FF: How did you implement the re-brand?
DV: We began re-branding about a year ago. We didn't want to just rip off the bandage and sort of scare people because some of our customers have been shopping with us for 30 years. The main concern was making sure our customers know it's still us.
FF: Why did you open a third location?
DV: Our first two stores are closer to the west side of San Francisco, so we wanted to find a new location with the re-branding that's a little bit on the east side of town to cover a larger footprint of the city. We finally found a location that we really liked, and we went for it.
FF: How does the new location help
DV: The kitchen at the new location is quite a bit larger than the other stores, so this one will eventually have the capability to produce products like salads, wraps and little grab-and-go items and distribute them to our other locations. In San Francisco, real estate doesn't come easy, and our other two stores are very tight, so the new store at 12,500 square feet is 30 percent bigger than our biggest location. For us, having a kitchen within our business that can handle the production for the other stores was the way to go.
FF: How does it feel to open your third
DV: It feels great. I mean, we've been working on the project for almost 2 1/2 years, and there's so many moving parts, just like with any business launch. Our focus is on making sure our managers have our support, our new customers are happy and products are in the system. We're working out all of the kinks. So I think it took about a week for us to say, "Hey, we actually did it."
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