I recently stopped into the Washington Market to talk to Amy Khoury who's family owns and operates the business. She gave me a tour of the market and pointed out some of the changes that customers could expect to see in 2010. "It took us a while to get a sense as to what our customers really want, "she explained to me. "As with any business, there was a transitional period where we needed to undergo a learning curve. I've always had a vision for what the market should look like... how it should flow... it's so big that it's hard to know where to start. I think we've been here long enough that we can take that original vision and make it work."
One of the first steps that the Khoury family is making is to bring onboard a consultant. The expert that they have hired spent eight years working at Wegmans, which should help to enhance some of the operational and inventory systems. "I think that people will be happy to know that the market is performing well," Amy added. "We're really excited to make the market the best that it can be. I'm a 'behind the scenes' person - working with someone with so much market experience will be helpful. At the same time we're looking for updated input from our customers... we want to hear from them - what they like and what they would like to see changed."
Some of the immediate changes that customers can expect to see include the addition of more comfortable lounge areas - one in front and one in back. The market wants to become a destination for people who want to hang around in a café-style setting, complete with WiFi and a coffee bar serviced by a barista. As for the market, Amy tells me that one of the plans is to increase the variety of products, while limiting the number of brands. "Instead of carrying ten hot sauces," she told me. "We'll stock a couple of the most popular ones. That will give us the ability to add more products. We want to have all of the essentials - we get a lot of people who swing by on their way home from work. Most of our grocery shopping is done around 5pm. During the day we want people to stop in for a bite to eat, work on their laptops and enjoy our coffee selections. In the evening we offer a different dinner selection every night that customers can view on our website. Even the number of vegetarian selections has increased due to customer demand. It's important that we become a one-stop-shop."
To be honest, there was a time (before the transition) when I wasn't quite sure that the Washington Market would make it. That would have been a major blow to downtown - to see a business like this fail just before things began to heat up. Thankfully, the Khoury family is in it for the long haul. They are happy with the progress that has been made, and they've worked out a lot of the issues that were handed to them when they took over the business. Now is the time to take the market to the next level - to show their customers that they are here for them and they're prepared to make ongoing investments to ensure that the market plays its part in the already palpable renaissance of a number of downtown districts.
The Washington Market
461 Ellicott Street
Buffalo, NY 14203-1544