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A market for hard-working families

Entrepreneurs: Valley Produce opens it’s third location, first in Santa Clarita

Posted: November 18, 2010 9:58 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Valley Produce Market held a grand opening ceremony on Thursday, marking the arrival of a new specialty grocer in the Santa Clarita Valley. The market, owned by Ephram Nehme, maintains lower prices than many other markets in the SCV, appealing to the hard-working families. Valley Produce Market is located in the Bridgeport Marketplace at the cor...

 

What do two educated professionals — one formerly an accountant, and the other a pharmacist — have in common beside precision and accuracy?

The husband-and-wife team left their jobs nearly two decades ago to start Valley Produce Market. Today, owner Ephram Nehme runs the family business.

Valley Produce Market held a packed grand opening Thursday for its new grocery market located in the Bridgeport Marketplace shopping center. It occupies the space vacated earlier this year by Bristol Farms.

Produce stand
What started as a produce stand in 1992 has grown into a company of three grocery markets in the San Fernando and Simi valleys and now Santa Clarita.

The full-service market offers a wide array of produce meats and bakery items, in addition to a deli and floral area.

The market is waiting for approval of its liquor license so it can stock imported wines in the rich wood wine racks installed near the front of the store.

Nehme classifies the store as an international market because it carries a selection of  everyday items and goods not often found in chain stores.

Walking through the produce section, a shopper is greeted by a variety of traditional and unique items, such as sweet lemons, Yali pears and varying kinds of persimmons and squash — produce not always seen at chain markets.

Residents of each of the three cities served by Valley Produce Market have a preference for specific food items, Nehme said. So each Valley Produce Market adjusts the food that it stocks to cater to local tastes.

“We carry every fruit imaginable to mankind,” Nehme said. “We want to satisfy everyone in the community.”

Price equality
Valley Produce Market’s business model is based on volume, which Nehme says keeps many of his prices lower than what is charged at other markets in the SCV.

Nehme said his costs are fixed whether he sells one box of tomatoes or 100. So he buys in large volumes and sells at lower prices, hoping to make lots of people happy with the selection and availability of produce.

“We all buy from the same farmer, broker and packer,” Nehme said of competing markets. “But we just operate on a smaller margin and sell in large volumes.”

Nehme said he likes to cater to regular, hard-working families by offering more of a product for lower prices.

“It was always my dream to have both the rich and poor buy the same apple for the same price,” Nehme said.

Lightning speed
What’s remarkable about the opening of Valley Produce Market is the speed at which it set up in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Last summer, Nehme spent time in SCV visiting every grocery store and market in the area.

He signed the lease on the local store Sept. 3. In less than three months, he had a large grocery store open for business. 

He attributes the speed to being a privately owned, independent small business, allowing him the freedom to make decisions quickly and solve problems immediately.

Nehme also heaped praise on local officials and resources that helped him get his market up and running in the short time period. He said the people at City Hall were great.

“We were thrilled to see Valley Produce Market open this week,” said Jason Crawford, economic development manager for the city. “We wish them great success in our community.”

The city of Santa Clarita WorkSource Center, located on the COC campus, also stepped in to help the company by promoting its job openings, holding recruitment events, screening new employees and identifying qualified employees for the new market.

The WorkSource Center is a free resource for local businesses.

“This is a great example of how the city collaborates with business daily to save owners time and money,” Mayor Laurene Weste said.

Valley Market Produce hired 75 people locally for its new store. The company has about 250 employees total at its three locations.

The market hired people in a variety of positions for the bakery and produce areas.

“The city was very helpful,” Nehme said. “It’s a very, very positive and business-friendly city.”

Nehme said he hopes the market can make everyone happy.

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