Family Owned Markets (FOM), the advertising and marketing group serving Central Pennsylvania independent retailers, has announced a major restructuring, said Jim Kidwell, director of marketing for the group’s four members – John Herr’s Village Market, Millersville, PA; Oregon Dairy, Lititz, PA; Yoder’s Country Market, New Holland, PA; and Martin’s Country Market, Ephrata, PA. The Millersville, PA-based entity will be adding a new member and switching wholesalers.

Family Owned Markets was created in 2003 to combine buying power and creative ideas to give its independent ownership (then all located in Lancaster County) greater marketing clout.

According to Kidwell, the recent restructuring stemmed from the reality of dealing with current competitive marketing conditions that have impacted the group as well as providing an opportunity for FOM to grow.

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At one point, FOM members included Darrenkamp’s whose four-store operation was sold to Giant/Martin’s in 2018, and Ferguson & Hassler, whose lone unit in Quarryville, PA was also sold to Giant/Martin’s this past summer.

“This market has evolved rapidly over the past five years,” said the former food broker who has been involved with the grocery business in Central PA for nearly 30 years. “With the recent sale of the three Musser’s stores (also sold to Giant/Martin which will reopen them next month), we needed a new plan of action if we were to move forward.”

Almost immediately after the Musser’s sale was announced last month, Saubel’s Markets, a strong four-store independent with units in Pennsylvania and Maryland, elected to join the group. That increased FOM’s store count to eight and according to Kidwell, “We are in contact with other Central PA independents in attempt to further increase the membership.”

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In a related announcement, Kidwell said that effective January 2020, the members of Family Owned Market will be switching primary suppliers. That’s when Merchant’s Distributors Inc. (MDI), the large privately-held voluntary wholesaler based in Hickory, NC, will begin servicing the group. FOM’s members had been supplied by C&S Wholesale Grocers since 2014 when the Keene, NH-based distributor acquired bankrupt AWI. Most of FOM’s members had been part of the AWI co-op for more than 40 years.

MDI, which has estimated annual sales of $2.1 billion and also owns the Lowe’s Food supermarket chain, has been adding new stores in the Mid-Atlantic region since AWI’s bankruptcy. With the addition of eight new stores, MDI’s presence in the regional field of wholesalers (which also includes UNFI and Bozzuto’s) becomes more impactful.

Asked if he was concerned about the logistical challenges posed by a company whose distribution center is based about 500 miles from Central PA, Kidwell said that is not a concern.

“MDI is currently running about 30 trucks to this area weekly, supplying its existing customers and utilizing backhaul opportunities, so I’m confident they can handle any logistical issues. I’m also optimistic that we’ll be able to get the same level of coverage – both at headquarters and in the stores – from the brokers and vendors,” he explained. “The key to our shift of wholesalers was that MDI made us feel comfortable. All the members were convinced that they understood the nuances of independent retailing and had a skilled staff who could best tend to our needs.”