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Locals Dish on Favorite Grocery Stores

Consumers point to convenience, specialty goods and customer service as key attractions to area grocery stores.

With so many choices in West Bloomfield, where do you shop?

That's what we asked some shoppers last week. With four grocery stores in a two-mile stretch located close to or on Orchard Lake Road, customers told us why they choose to frequent one or more of four stores: Hiller's, Busch's, Whole Foods and Plum Market.

"My family and I like the fact that we can do most of our shopping all in the same general area," said Howard Rosenberg, a West Bloomfield resident since 1984. "They () have different fresh fish markets, different meats, and different produce. We do most of our shopping there. I’ll go down to for certain things and for certain things."

customers told us they like the convenience of the store at Farmington and 14 Mile roads. They also liked that they could buy everything in one stop and that the company has a loyalty to purchasing Michigan-made products.

Many felt the same about market, at Maple and Orchard Lake.

and were noted as "niche markets" — places to shop for specific goods.

Organics and specialty items

Customers love Whole Foods for its organic produce selection and its dairy. Plum Market attracted shoppers for specialty items such as teas that couldn’t be found elsewhere, as well as cheese and a wide selection of wine. For customers who chose Whole Foods as their go-to grocery store, organic made up the majority of their diet.

“I only buy organic products, and I like that Whole Foods offers a bulk selection of the products,” said Marj Haber, 56, of West Bloomfield.

Haber said that she goes to Plum Market for anything she isn’t able to find at Whole Foods.

“I don’t pay much attention to price because when it comes to health, how can you put a price on that?”

Low-sodium and gluten-free items especially popular

Haber said she has been into Hiller’s a few times, but views the store's organic selection as inconsistent, saying it offers the products off and on depending on the season.

Hiller's store director Larry Waller said the store does carry a wide selection of natural and organic foods, but also highlights low-sodium and gluten-free products. “And we really try to promote made-in-Michigan products," Waller said.

“We provide a lot more specialty items than chain grocery stores, and we provide the whole entire shopping experience; the whole package,” Waller said.

Likewise, Busch’s provides a similar experience. Store manager J.D. Hennigan noted having a bit of everything in stock, while also concentrating on gluten-free products as well as organic.

Hennigan said it would be hard today to not put some money into organic products because people are more health-conscious than he has seen in the past. Another trend, Hennigan said, is that customers opt for Michigan products over those grown or produced in other states or countries.

The gluten-free selection is something that customer Vikki Bickell, 37, of Farmington Hills, recently noticed in Busch’s. She has been coming to Busch’s since it opened in late 2008, and appreciates the selection of goods, quality products and sale prices. She shops there three to four times a week.

If Bickell is looking for a specialty health food item, she might go to Whole Foods, she said. She said she's able to find some desirable cheeses at Whole Foods as well as some bakery items that are not available at Busch’s.

Technology offers a new convenience

Bickell said that one of her favorite aspects about Busch’s is its convenience. It offers customers the ability to go onto its website, order what they want and the store clerks will shop for them at a small fee. The only thing expected of the customer is that he or she drive to the store to pick up the order.

“I have two kids that don’t like going shopping, so it is really helpful,” Bickell said.

Another convenient aspect of Busch’s and Hiller’s as well are their full-service meat and fish departments. Hennigan said there is a butcher on hand until 11 p.m. every night at Busch's. Waller said nothing is pre-sliced at Hiller’s – it’s all made to order.

“I get the tenderloins sometimes and they’re always fresh,” said Hiller’s customer Karen Sitto, 38, of Franklin. “They just have a lot of really good products here, I seem to get everything I need.”

Plum Market customer Sathab Ousachi, 35, of West Bloomfield said she likes the convenience of the soup and salad bar and the store's prepared American, Asian and Indian cuisine.

'Neighborhood feel' and knowledge help shopping experience

Customer service is another aspect of the grocery shopping experience that many consumers covet. Busch’s and Plum Market were noted for their quality of service.

“Their customer service is outstanding," Ousachi said of Plum Market's staff. "They’re always willing to help and they ask you questions. Their knowledge of the wines and the cheeses are really helpful.”

Ousachi said many times she has walked out of the store with a new wine to try because the store associates are so helpful.

“It’s really all about the people here,” Hennigan said. “You can walk in just about any store and get a box of mac and cheese, for example, but we have the neighborhood grocer feeling when you walk in.”

Groceries at a glance

Plum Market: Opened three locations in 2007. Features a 10 percent discount on most goods and services every Tuesday for seniors ages 65 and older. Employees from from Beaumont, Henry Ford, St. Joseph Mercy or Botsford hospitals with ID badges are welcome to 5 percent discounts every day.

Hiller's: Family-owned and operated, the grocery chain started in 1941 and offers a Hometown First card to customers who spend more than $100 in a trip with a sizable, one-time use discount at select locally owned businesses.

Whole Foods: Started in 1980. It offers the chance for customers to easily donate their bag refund reward to teach low-income families how to cook healthy, tasty meals on a budget, in a program operated locally by Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan.

Busch's: This family owned Michigan company has been around since 1975. Its stores at 14 Mile and Farmington opened in late 2008. The store offers centered on heart-healthy recipes and diabetic health recipes.

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