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2011 12 People You Need to Know: Erick Taylor

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In an economic climate that has stymied expansion for businesses in many sectors, Erick Taylor is leading Pyramid Foods full-steam ahead.

The company operates 48 grocery stores in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma under several names,  including Price Cutter, Ramey and Smitty’s. In 2010, Pyramid Foods opened two new Springfield stores.

Bistro Market, an urban store with a 24-foot bar to serve salad and hot food, a Starbuck’s Café, and a beer and wine bar, opened Aug. 20, and a 55,000-square-foot Price Cutter Plus opened Nov. 3 in Chestnut Crossing at the intersection of Chestnut Expressway and West Bypass.

Taylor got his start in the grocery business when he was 16, working at the Price Cutter at the corner of Grant and Commercial streets. At that time, he worked for his father, who was president of Roswil Inc., which owned the stores until the younger Taylor led the conversion to an employee stock ownership program about five years ago.

“My whole family’s been in this business since 1960,” Taylor says. “It’s not just a job; it’s my life.”

The grocery business has changed in some aspects in the last 50 years, he says.

“You have to be a lot faster, and more involved in your communities than you did back in the 1960s,” Taylor notes.

The company added online grocery service – with delivery for a flat $10 fee – about three years ago, Taylor says, and Pyramid Foods also helps raise millions of dollars for area charities through sponsorship of events such as the Price Cutter Charity Championship and the American Cancer Society’s Cattle Baron’s Ball.

A big chunk of Taylor’s workweek entails researching new projects, from store remodels to ideas for departmental expansions.

“Right now, natural, organic products are really a strong desire from the consumers,” he says, noting that the company is in discussions with Springfield-based Well-Fed Neighbor Alliance, which is working to get local farmers into a co-op that could distribute products to Pyramid Foods’ stores. The company also supports local jobs by buying much of its food from Springfield-based Associated Wholesale Grocers.

One growth area may be the company’s Bistro Market concept, which Taylor has said he expects to hit profitability in Springfield – and $10 million in sales – during its first year, which concludes in August 2011.

“We could use a little more help on the grocery side of the store, but on the restaurant side, it seems like it’s been very successful,” Taylor says, noting that 30 seats have been added to boost indoor dining capacity to 80.  

Taylor says he hopes to build at least one new store a year for the next few years, and he’s already exploring new sites in Springfield, which he says could likely support two more stores.
Adding Bistro Market concept stores in other cities depends on pinpointing the right mix of college students and downtown lofts and businesses.

“It takes all three of these things to make a store like the bistro work,” he says.

For more information on the 12 People You Need to Know series, click here.
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