If you shop once at the Yolo Fruit Stand, more than likely you’ll shop there again. Altim Shquti – Tim for short – manager of the Yolo Fruit Stand knows just what it takes to keep customers coming back for more; farm fresh family produce accompanied by a genuine smile. That’s just what you’ll find at Yolo Fruit Stand.
Owned by his fiancé Nikkis’ parents – Gus and Maria – Tim wasn’t quite sure that the business would take off when the family first purchased it from the previous owner two years ago.
“When I came here I said, ’No way,’ everyone is driving the 80 at 70 miles an hour!”
He wasn’t sure that customers would slow down long enough to notice or even pull of the Causeway to come into the store. But then he stopped to consider what he looks for in a grocery store. He knew that both exceptional service and high-quality products were more a priority than a convenience and that if people enjoyed the food and shopping experience – they’d go out of their way to come back.
“I would really like to know that there are some fresh produce that are like (picked) daily, that haven’t stayed in the refrigerator for weeks and months,” says Tim. “So I said, ’Let’s give it a shot’,” and his intuition turned out to be right.
Despite the struggling economy, the store has experienced steady growth over the past two years, proof enough that Tim’s recipe of fresh locally grown produce and attentive service can trump affordable convenience.
“Honestly, from the first month and the second month we just keep growing the business,” he says. “It’s picking up like now, especially lately.”
Key components of his success are fresh local produce and healthy relationships. Tim not only strives to foster relationships with his customers but also with the growers that supply the store. Tim does all of the ordering for the store, and some growers even have the capability of doing next-day delivery. And if something is out of season – not to worry – the family is connected with growers as far away as Napa and Fresno.
These connections were made prior to the family buying and re-opening the store, when they sold wholesale produce on 5th Street in Downtown Sacramento. This is also where the family met the previous owner, who was more than ready to sell.
“He’s like 85 to 90 years old now,” says Tim, “And so he said, ’I just want to sell it.’” With that, Yolo Fruit Stand was passed into new ownership.
And while much of the store is the same, Tim has expanded the stock to include refrigerated products, an expansive selection of dried fruits and flavored nuts, and a coffee shop.
Refrigerated products include gourmet and organic cheeses, organic fruits and vegetables as well as local wine selections. Perhaps most impressive is the flavored nut section that includes specialties like garlic almonds, butter toffee cashews, Asian peanuts, cinnamon honey almonds, and chili-lemon almonds. There is also a very nice selection of organic vegetables, including mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes and yellow cauliflower. And their array of dried fruits and vegetables are an estimated 60 to 70 percent locally grown and dried, according to Tim.
The selection, coupled with the ability to recognize – by name – the farm or growers that produce one’s food, more deeply invests customers in their purchase and gives them the sense that they have a personal tie to that producer.
But more than anything, however, Tim says the family has tried to add that personal touch to each customer’s interaction with store staff. He wants customers to view Yolo Fruit Stand as part of their life fabric.
“We’ve been trying to become with them, like, more like – not just a friend, like a family,” says Tim. “So if there’s anything we can do for you … the main thing is to make everyone happy to come back here.”
And Tim has seen growth in customer satisfaction as much as he’s seen growth in sales, particularly with regard to students.
“Here we have a lot of students from UC Davis, which are from all over the world, all over the United States,” says Tim. “There are like a lot of kids that come (together) like five, six, and since they know, they bring friends with them too,” although the store also caters to West Sacramento residents.
Tim says they also get a lot of service from Bay Area commuters, “That traffic that I never thought could stop driving that fast – that makes a big difference here,” he says of his regular customers that are commuters. Travelers also stop on their way to Reno and Tahoe, but another market the store caters to is our local restaurants.
They added more to their stock put more products out also added more refrigerated products. Tim estimates that local restaurants from both West Sacramento and Davis purchase produce from Yolo Fruit Stand anywhere from two to three times a week.
The store appeals to an entire range of customers; restaurant owners, students and commuters alike. What they all have in common is the desire for fresh food from identifiable places. “Lots of people are looking for locally grown produce,” explains Tim. He goes on, “Fruit stands are really important for our community … but you can’t find them anytime, just anywhere.”
And that is Yolo Fruit Stand’s other niche; the store is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (6 p.m. during winter months).
“(We) can’t close a day here,” explains Tim of other businesses dependence on the store. “Even Thanksgiving Day, we were thinking last year, let’s close it and have a day off.” But, “What the hell is happening guys, we need produce!” was apparently the phrase that got the family to open the store on a national holiday.
But it is precisely this sort of service that keeps customers coming back. Like a dependable friend, they know that Yolo Fruit Stand will always be open. And if something is unavailable in-store, staff will find it and get it to you. Besides the high-quality produce, this is at the heart of the store’s success.
“It’s the service,” that brings customers back and it’s the main thing – keeping the customers happy along with being “Ready anytime for anything they want.”