BARRE — According to Jaime Babin, the new owner of Quality Market on Washington Street, a full-service grocery store in Barre City, the key to success is customer service.
She should know: She already owns the Graniteville General Store and has seen sales at that store increase significantly since she bought it in May 2021.
“Customer service and being community oriented are the key. I’m enjoying listening to all the customer feedback and learning what they like and what they dislike. My goal is to keep the same level of customer service Quality Market has always had and what people expect. The store is all about the customer. I’m also very big in the community. I have been in the other store and will be here also,” she said.
Babin purchased Quality Market from Pam and Guy Trag, who also owned the Hardwick Village Market, which they sold in March 2022.
Currently, there are 14 employees at Quality Market and seven at the Graniteville store. There are job openings at each store.
“We’re always looking,” Babin said.
Babin said she hopes to replicate the success she has had in Graniteville at the Barre City store. The Graniteville store is much different now than it was three years ago, she said.
“I changed just about everything,” she said.
Changes included installing an industrial kitchen for a more robust deli; redesigning the deli and checkout counters; and moving the coffee station for better and more convenient access.
“The store is much more welcoming now than it was when I bought it. Before, everything was bunched in the front of the store. People can now walk around more easily. Capacity wise, you don’t feel so cramped in the store as you did before,” she said.
Quality Market has similar customer flow issues, she said.
“One of the checkout counters blocks several aisles. That doesn’t make any sense,” she said.
In addition, the checkout counters are right at the door so when it is very cold outside, cashiers have to wear jackets. “That doesn’t make sense either,” she said.
Any changes Babin will make will depend on what she learns during the next few months and from the feedback she gets from her customers.
“We’re not going to make big changes all at once. We’re not going to shut down. It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re going to make changes as needed and listen to our customers. My goal is to make sure the store is flowing in a way that makes sense.”
Babin credits the current staff and the previous owners for helping her get through her first month.
“We have a valuable staff. They were able to help me along, to make sure I stayed on track. The Trags have also been very helpful. They ran the store well and were very customer-oriented,” she said.
In addition to maintaining a high level of customer service, Babin said she is committed to retaining the very popular meat department, with its high-quality meats, and adding a sandwich prep station to expand the deli to offer freshly made sandwiches.
“Since the pandemic, we’ve offered sandwiches to go, but my goal is to have a full-service deli and a full-time meat department,” she said.
Babin also will continue offering Italian specialties.
Prior to purchasing the Graniteville store, Babin worked at a local accounting firm for seven years, a skill she said has come in very handy for running a store.
“I don’t need to hire a bookkeeper, that’s something I can do,” she said.
One of the most common reactions to her as the owner concerns her age. Only 32, she now owns two businesses.
“When some of the customers come in looking for the new owner, they are surprised it’s me,” she said.
Babin said she is confident she will be successful because the store has a loyal customer base and provides a needed service in the community.
“I’m a worker. I’ve always held two or three jobs. When I’ve put my mind to it, I’ve always been successful. I am optimistic that will happen here,” she said.
Babin said Quality Market is reminiscent of a time when service was the most important part of the shopping experience.
“At Quality Market, we are happy to special order anything that you want, if we can get it. If we can’t, we’ll let you know why and suggest an alternative,” she said.
The primary supplier for the market is Associated Grocers of New England. The store also has relationships with numerous other distributors.
Originally from Westerly, Rhode Island, Babin moved to Vermont in 2009 to attend college at Community College of Vermont and Johnson College, now part of Northern Vermont University. She never left.
Her fiancée, Brandy Robbins, runs the Graniteville store. She took over that job last November after a long career at the post office. They have a son, Ryker Babin.
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