Barons Market, a SoCal-based natural retailer, put its mission of giving back to the community to work in 2018, raising $300,000 for 280 organizations like Feeding America and Light the Way, a campaign that brings holiday cheer to families of terminally ill children. How did they do it? If you ask Senior Vice President Rachel Shemirani, it’s by keeping an ear to the ground and choosing local projects that make a tangible difference in the community.
Why is community philanthropy important to your store?
Rachel Shemirani: As a family-run market, it’s important for us to solidify ourselves as a neighborhood market. We’re small and flexible enough that we can help local schools, little leagues, or a sick child in the community, but also larger organizations like the Humane Society or a children’s hospital. We’re a local San Diego family and we believe that when our communities thrive, everyone wins.
How do you choose partners?
RS: We field about 100 requests a month, which is a lot for a small market. So we have constant discussions internally, with store managers, and with our customers about what the community needs. Typically, the number one criteria is that the project must be local to our store, within a 5 to 10 mile radius, and help that local neighborhood specifically.
How do you raise the money?
RS: One way is by asking customers to donate at the register by rounding their total up. We also do larger fundraising events like Barons Backroom Beer Pairings. We work with a local brewery, choose four beers, and make a simple meal using our food. The events take place at all seven stores on the same day, 60 to 120 people attend each event, and 100 percent of each $15 ticket goes to a charity we choose.
Finally, we stopped printing a weekly ad. Last January 2018 we said, let’s try cutting the ad for a month and look at sales. There was no difference. So we tried it again the next month. And sales went up. So now we take those advertising dollars and put it into our community. You will see the results and you will feel the results. And, as a side effect, it's a great way to differentiate yourself as an independent retailer.
Any tips you can share for fellow retailers who want to make an impact and get started?
RS: One of the best ways is to meet with your local chamber, schools and government. You'll find there are one or two people that are the leaders—people that just know everything about the neighborhood. Talk to them and meet with them and invite them to things you're doing. Set up booths at local events. And, listen to your customers. You’ll be surprised the little nuggets of information you’ll learn and then can act on.