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Erick Taylor
Erick Taylor

Pyramid Foods CEO dissects crowded marketplace

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In a grocery market that is rapidly becoming "over-stored," Pyramid Foods President and CEO Erick Taylor is carving a path with a civic-minded, local approach.

Taylor, a Springfield native, has since 1993 managed Pyramid Foods, the holding company behind 48 grocery stores in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma under names such as Price Cutter, Ramey and Smitty's. He was the featured guest this morning for Springfield Business Journal's monthly 12 People You Need to Know series, held at the Hilton Garden Inn.

In the current climate, Taylor said Pyramid Foods is expanding while keeping two burgeoning trends in mind - locally grown, organic food and quickly made, prepared meals.

One recent move was the opening of Bistro Market in downtown Springfield in August 2010, when Taylor predicted the store would post $10 million in sales and score profitability in its first year.

"I'm batting 0 for 2, but our team is still committed to hitting a home run," Taylor said of the prediction, noting the store hit a third-party consultant's projection of $4 million in first-year sales. He adds that the store's true success lies in its ability to test the waters.

"We're rolling out the Bistro Market concept into all 48 of our stores," Taylor said. "We see prepared products as a very fast-growing field."

Pyramid Foods has pushed to keep its own business ventures close to home, working with farmers and the Missouri State University William H. Darr School of Agriculture to purchase and grow local, organic food. With that comes lower transportation costs and the ability to hire local drivers, which Taylor said aids not only his company but real estate companies, restaurants and others.

"Price Cutter wants to make sure this community rocks and rolls," he said.

In a market soon filling with Pyramid Foods stores and the likes of Hy-Vee, Walmart Neighborhood Market and Save-A-Lot, Taylor said it is in the hands of consumers to determine what direction the community wants to take with its grocery stores.

"Where you shop makes a big differences on our jobs and our economy," he said. "I may pay a little more but in the long run will get a lot more back."

Taylor said the employee-owned Pyramid Foods has to keep its strategies close at hand to compete with larger chains and to keep its presence known and valuable.

"It's like a big chess game," Taylor said. "You have to learn to understand your competition very well and go after their weaknesses, and understand your strengths."

Looking to the future, Taylor said construction of a new store in Joplin is scheduled to begin within 30 days and that stores are planned for Carthage, West Plains and Tulsa, Okla. However, plans for a 52,000-square-foot store in Wilson Creek Marketplace in Battlefield have been pushed back three to five years as the company evaluates decisions made by Wal-Mart, which is planning to build at least two and possibly up to six Neighborhood Market stores in the city.

"I'm very pro-business, and I'm very pro-Springfield," Taylor said. "We've got to look at the big picture. We've got to have jobs. We've got to do things that take care of our community.

"Do you want a world of only Wal-Mart, or do you want an open market?"

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