Lessons Learned from a Local Legend

I have a theory that you cannot have a conversation with someone from Richmond without one person mentioning our local grocery store, Ukrops. You see Ukrops is a store so embedded into Richmond’s culture that when word got out that they may possibly sell out to a larger chain, it left us all stunned.

While the Ukrops brothers deny these allegations, even just the rumor and speculation that a piece of our culture may be lost is devastating to anyone who calls Richmond home. This is because when local people talk about great experiences, Ukrops is inevitably cited as one that is top of the list.

Here are the lessons I have learned from this illustrious and quirky local brand:

{Their service is the stuff legends are made of} For example, one of my coworkers has a fond childhood memory of her mother coming home after shopping at Ukrops only to find her bread smushed by other items in the bag. She called the store to alert them, thinking they’d set aside a loaf or offer a credit. Instead, one of their employees showed up at her house with a loaf of bread and two half gallons of ice cream. Did I mention it was during an ice storm? They give the golden rule a sparkly shine.

{They make their customers feel special} They do simple things like take your bags to your car for you. And not just once in a while, every single time you go there. Like a pampered Hollywood starlet, I direct the bag boy to load my purchases into my car. (He’s even trained not to accept tips!) It’s a simple differentiator, and every time I shop elsewhere and begrudgingly haul my own loot to the car, I remember why I love Ukrops.

{They hire mirrors} They seek out employees that match their brand, people with similar values and principles who ooze first class service. Working for Ukrops makes a statement about your character. And unlike most grocery store baggers, serving people is truly a source of pride.

{They stand for deep meaningful principles} And they don’t cave to peer pressure. When one of their family members was killed by a drunk driver, they made it a policy to never sell alcohol in their stores. Then, they stuck to it. What grocery store chain could ever get away with not selling cold beer? They did. Â I’ll admit it makes life a little inconvenient, but as a byproduct it has helped local wine and beer specialty shops thrive as a vital part of our community.

{They are local in a way that counts} They sponsor our most meaningful and beloved local traditions. For instance, they are the title sponsors of great quirky local events like a race down one of our historical cobblestone and monument lined streets while runners are serenaded by local bands and encouraged to dress up in their wildest attire. It’s fun and quirky and very Richmond.

{They are eerily consistent} While each store may have a slightly different layout, I can sometimes forget what end of town I’m in. They are merchandised the same way in every store even to minute details. Although a lot of the food tastes homemade, they consistently deliver on high quality. As a result they have chased out a lot of larger chains from our area.

{They don’t compete on price} I know that when I shop at Ukrops I will pay more than most other stores, yet I still go. I buy an experience that is worth a few extra bucks going into the pockets of my home-team.

{They are controversial} When Howard Stern’s morning show was on public radio, they fought hard to have it removed from Richmond airwaves. And they succeeded. They even close their doors all day on Sunday. Such a puritanical attitude may alienate some, but it doesn’t appear to ever hurt their bottom line.

It’s obvious their philosophy is about strong moral values over profit, which is why this buyout is so shocking to many Richmonders. Recently other service superstar chains with strong ethics have moved into our area – like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market and Tom Leonards. I’ll admit I have fallen in love with these alternatives for their similar quirky character. I often wonder how these great new brands will affect the Ukrop’s stake.

So, who are your local legends? And what lessons can you learn from them to help your credit union build a stronger brand?


About giraphcu

Greetings and salutations! Welcome to gira{ph}, a strategic marketing firm that helps credit unions amplify their greatness to create chemistry with consumers. The credit union movement has given so much to us. This is our way of giving back. Enjoy!
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