I spent some time with a friend who opened a salvage grocery store down in Sacramento, CA asking a few informative questions. I think her answers are not only revealing but will inspire some of you who are thinking about getting into this business. Take a listen:

When did you open your store and how is business for you in the current economy?

Our store opened the doors back on July 15th, 2005. Back then we felt as though we were venturing into uncharted territory as there was no definitive, set way to operate a store like this. There was no book, guide or template we could use to model our business after. It was scary to say the least! We learned the hard way, day by day in the trenches. Looking back, I am very grateful we have stayed the course and adapted to meet our core customers need for buying groceries at rock-bottom pricing.

How many employees do you have?

Well this number changes frequently as with most retail operations, but on a regular basis we employ a staff of 3 full time employees and 5 part-time workers. Besides the help it is my husband and I filling in the gaps. We work all the time and find it hard to stay far away from the store. We need a staff because we are open 7 day per week with extended hours into the evening to accommodate those who work normal 8-5 work schedules.

Looking back what has been the biggest mistake you have made to date?

The biggest mistake…wow, let me take a moment as we have experienced so many blunders in our evolution. I would have to say the biggest mistake has been not investigating food suppliers prior to buying truckloads of inventory. If that has not been the biggest mistake it certainly has been the biggest financial mistake we made! You see we lost about $9k on a truckload of pure unsellable merchandise from a broker who is no longer in business. My heart dropped when we started unloading that purchase. We were able to resell about 30% of the truckload and the other 70% went into the garbage as most of the food was damaged beyond the point of merchandising. We took a big hit from this purchase but learned how to to investigate a supplier before we shell out money!

About how many customers does your store serve each day?

Well, on weekdays we see an average of about 130 shoppers per day and Saturday/Sunday the number drops to about 100 per day.

What advice would you give to those who are looking to start a salvage food grocery store?

Be prepared for a huge learning curve! All lessons learned by my husband and I have come simply from making mistakes. You must be able to pick yourself up and carry on. This type of retailing is dependent upon the stock you purchase, which is every changing. We never know what will be arriving each week. Sometimes our inventory is heavy in certain items and low in those categories that are sought after.