Cape Schnucks turns 30, having fended off many competitors

Monday, November 13, 2006
Employees of Schnucks-Walgreens gathered outside the store shortly after it opened in 1976. (Submitted photo)

By Dennis Marchi's count, 13 grocery stores have come and gone in the three decades that Schnucks has been in Cape Girardeau, including some high-profile names like Kroeger's, Shop 'n Save and Albertsons.

But 30 years after it opened, Schnucks is still standing.

And that's despite the five Wal-Marts within a 30-mile radius, said Marchi, the store's manager since 1985. And it's also despite attempts every few years by new grocery stores coming to town, hoping to draw away customers.

"We've always managed to stay ahead of the game," Marchi said last week. "And our customers are loyal. We've been very fortunate, but we've worked hard to earn that loyalty."

On Friday, the Cape Girardeau Schnucks, at 19 S. Kingshighway, will welcome customers and local dignitaries to celebrate three decades of service to Southeast Missouri.

Beginning at noon, Marchi will be joined by Schnucks' executive committee chairman Craig Schnuck and Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson for a rededication ribbon-cutting. Knudtson has also prepared a proclamation for Schnucks that will be read at the event.

The Cape Girardeau store was the first combination grocery and drugstore for Schnucks. Craig Schnuck was present at the ribbon-cutting when the original Schnucks-Walgreens opened to customers on Nov. 16, 1976.

"At that time, we correctly determined that combination stores were the future direction of food retailing," Schnuck said. "With these stores, the same assortment could be displayed in less total space. The savings could be used to offer better prices to our customers."

Five years later in 1981, Schnucks purchased Walgreens' interest in the partnership.

Marchi joined the store in 1985 and has immersed himself in the community. His current affiliations include the United Way, Salvation Army, Saint Francis Medical Center, Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce and Southeast Missouri State University. He also serves on the board for Montgomery Bank.

In 1990, Marchi was presented with the Edward J. Schnuck Award for community service, one the company's highest honors, and in 2001, Marchi received the Food Marketing Institute's national Store Manager of the Year.

Marchi added that the store still employs 11 associates who were there for opening day 30 years ago, and at one time the store even employed now-famous comedian Cedric the Entertainer while he was attending college here.

Founded in St. Louis in 1939, Schnuck Markets Inc. currently operates 101 stores and 98 pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Mississippi and Iowa.

"It's unusual for one business in today's economy to survive this long and do well," said Marchi, who was a Schnucks bagger at age 16.

Marchi gives much of the credit to the store's employees. He said their work ethic is "second to none." Employees also donate much time to local charities, something he believes customers appreciate.

The one challenge that Marchi acknowledges is competing with Wal-Mart. He admits that the Wal-Mart's prices are less expensive than at his store.

"They run a good operation, but we've got to get closer to them in prices," he said.

One way to do that is to cut back on waste. They've improved by more efficient ordering, meaning that half-empty trucks no longer roll into town from St. Louis. They'd also like to move to a paperless system.

"But when people come into Schnucks and they know they're getting the highest quality," he said. "And I'll put my employees up against anybody's."

Marchi said he has no doubt that Schnucks will be in Cape Girardeau another 30 years.

"We're an important contributor to the corporation," he said. "We're a profitable store."

335-6611, extension 137

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