Lira’s market builds local clientele

Susan Wood

Much has happened at Lira’s Supermarket in a year, but it’s only the beginning for the Meyers store, the Liras say.

The store opened in December 2000 with 40 employees and a multitude of advertising to promote the store.

But the belt had to be tightened, and half of the positions and much of the advertising was eliminated.

“When we first opened, we had growing pains, but we’ve made progress in a positive direction. We had to tighten things up, pay attention and make sure we take care of the customers,” Mike Lira said.

Lira has spent most of his time in the Rio Vista store, but he switched places Tuesday with his father Jim. Mom Shirley also has staffed the Highway 50 store for nine months.

When the independent supermarket opened, some doubted whether residents in the neighborhood would sustain the business.

Although people have told the Lira’s staff they were unaware of the store even opening, the supermarket has achieved enough success to come out about 25 percent ahead from year ago.

“How many businesses can say that? he asked.

Management has seen a lot more repeat business from the first few months Lira’s was opened.

“I go downtown and I let people know who I am and I get a good response. It makes me feel like we did it right,” Shirley said.

Store management takes the response seriously, setting up a suggestion box since Day 1.

Trends have shown people in the neighborhood and tourists passing through want natural foods.

“We were caught off guard by the natural foods. We found a real demand for it,” Mike said. “We just trusted what people were asking for.”

In the near future, shoppers can look for more inventory and more specialty items, including fresh bagels next to the the coffee dispenser.

Beyond the grand opening held last year, the notable changes and moments were not reserved to inside the store.

Manager Steve Parker, who opens the store at 7 a.m., recalled having to dig his car parked in the lot overnight out of the snow last December. He had to wade through snow up to his hips to get to the door.

That same day, he noticed a cross country skier with a backpack and a snowmobiler come to the store to shop.

“Those are the days we hear from people, ‘Gee, we’re glad you’re here,'” Parker said.

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