By Valerie Shelton, Editor
It’s 9 a.m. Feb. 4—two weeks prior to the highly anticipated grand opening of Sprouts Farmer’s Market in Clovis—and a group of fresh-faced employees, 134 new ones in all, fill the store. Some are starting to stock the dry and frozen food shelves while others gear up for a day of deli department training. It’s going to be a long day, but each employee is there, ready with an enthusiastic smile on their face.
Store Manager Manny Montoya has the biggest grin of them all. For the man who has been in the grocery business for 33 years and has successfully opened 22 stores during his tenure with Kroger, getting ready to open his first store with Sprouts is exciting and the main reason for that, he said, is because Sprouts invests so much energy in training their employees so they can, in turn, invest more in their customers.
“Training our members is something that we take a lot of pride,” Montoya said. “We have to be here and provide knowledge to our members so they can enjoy that experience and pass it on when they engage with our customers. The investment that is made is huge. I’ve worked in this industry for 33 years and I worked for a major competitor, Kroger, and though they have 2,000 stores they don’t come close to the level of commitment in training that we have here at Sprouts. Even for myself, I’ve been with Sprouts for seven months and that investment that was made for me was outstanding and as a result, my boss gave me the opportunity to open this store.”
Training is the major focus at Sprouts because the store specializes in many health food products that consumers don’t know as much about because many aren’t available in conventional grocery stores.
“We are always looking for the most healthy choice for our customers,” Montoya said. “For that reason, when we get the customers into our stores, our team members have the autonomy to speak to the customers and if they never tasted a product, they have the autonomy to open a product and have the customer taste it. The members who work in the vitamin department, for example, are folks who have a lot of knowledge when it comes to nutrition and health. Most of them have a background in it and a lot of them came from the health industry or the health fitness industry. It is an intimidating department for a customer if they don’t have that knowledge, so our members are there to help.”
Montoya said providing customers with a positive grocery shopping experience isn’t the only result of having a knowledgeable team—the big impact is that it can change people’s lives.
The biggest changes, Montoya said, are made in the lives of customers who need to make dietary changes for health reasons. They may have been diagnosed with diabetes or celiac disease or have found out they have a food allergy or they may just need to lose weight for other health reasons. Whatever the case, Montoya said Sprouts employees have adequate training in nutrition and different diet plans so they are able to help these customers.
“A lot of people who come through our front doors my last six months at the Fresno store, come because of a health situation and they have to change their eating habits,” Montoya said. “They say ‘Manny, I need to eat differently, I just don’t know how’ so we have an opportunity to educate them with the knowledge that we have and we introduce them to healthy products. Changing eating habits is so difficult and Sprouts not only provides that, but at a very good price and that is the difference. That is what makes us huge because we have that healthy alternative at a very affordable price. That has been part of the success and that has been my calling.
“People ask ‘Manny, why did you go from a huge box of 65,000 square feet to a 28,000,’ and I say it is because I’m making a difference in peoples lives. It is so amazing. We went to a summit with all the store managers and we had a gentleman named Lou in Arizona. He weighed over 300 pounds and now not only is he our customer but he lost so much weight and he’s the biggest advocate for our company. In our region, in Petaluma, it was the same thing with this lady who found herself having to change her lifestyle and she came to Sprouts and the store manager there and the team really walked her through this change and now she is enjoying life.”
This customer service is a far cry from the typical big box grocery store where customers will ask an employee for help finding an item and be directed to a certain aisle.
“We don’t have aisle numbers, we walk out customers over, present them the product and give them alternatives,” Montoya said.
In addition to providing stellar customer service and a host a healthy items, Montoya said Sprouts also prides itself on having quality food in each department. In the meat department, for example, Montoya said they don’t sell any products that were previously frozen; instead each cut of meat is packaged on site.
Montoya says it’s as simple as the company’s mission statement: “At Sprouts Farmer’s Market we embrace healthy living, ignite curiosity, learn and grow together, respect and serve one another, maximize potential and always enjoy the journey.”
Now, that journey can be shared with Clovis Community.
“We’ve been successful in Fresno and I think the Clovis community has been waiting for us to come here and we’re excited,” said Tyrone Davidson, the Sprouts Marketing Manager for the Sacramento region.
The Sprouts Farmers Market Clovis grand opening will be Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 7 a.m. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony and the public is welcome to come tour the store. Special events and giveaways will include muffin and coffee samples, 20 percent off initial purchases for the first 200 shoppers in line, a coupon book for every 15th shopper in the checkout line, dollar deals throughout the store and free reusable grocery bags for each customer.
Throughout opening week, Sprouts will also donate all unsold and edible but not marketable groceries to the Community Food Bank as part of Sprouts local Food Rescue Program.