What drives a small grocery store to grow? The answer is customer demand at Compton’s Market in East Sacramento, an established neighborhood with beautiful houses and tree-lined streets.
Compton’s shoppers responded to several surveys listing options for more choices, from fresh deli offerings, such as sandwiches, to baked goods and adult beverages, says Sunil Hans, who owns and operates the store with his wife, Pam. As a result, a new 4,000-square-foot café and deli opened April 22 at the market, located on McKinley Boulevard.
Compton’s MarketHours:7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m dailyLocation:4065 McKinley Blvd., Sacramento Info:(916) 456-2443
The expansion features products from local vendors Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters, Freeport Bakery and Gunther’s Ice Cream, plus a bar with local beer and wine. There will also be seven energy-efficient deli cases and chairs and tables to “easily accommodate 40 people at a time,” Hans says. (He declined to share the cost of the expansion.) He also plans to hire six to eight new employees for the new deli.
Compton’s Market opened in 1973 in East Sacramento, and was one of a chain of locally-owned grocery stores. Hans bought the one grocery store in 2009 from David and Mike Compton. Hans commutes to Compton’s daily from Yuba City, where he lives with his wife and their two children, both students at Sacramento State. Hans arrived in the U.S. in 1993, from India. He worked as a quality control supervisor for Dr. Pepper and 7 Up for 20 years before retiring to take over Compton’s full-time.
Mike Compton has been a consultant and mentor to Hans for the past eight years, currently working two days a week in the store. Hans and Mike Compton began to plan the store’s expansion in July 2015.
The expansion broke ground in June 2016, and the adage that the best of construction plans fail to foresee all possibilities proved true. One hiccup, for instance, involved the project requiring an additional electrical transformer, which SMUD installed. But the project has been worth the obstacles, Hans says.
“I’ve taken many small steps with Compton’s,” he says, “and have received a very good response from the neighborhood.”
As the owner of an important neighborhood institution, Hans has also been involved in the local community. “Sunil and his team have been amazing supporters of the Theodore Judah Elementary School PTA and community,” says parent and East Sacramento resident Rob Ferrara, “hosting events at Compton’s in the past, such as the Taste and Toast, and contributing to our school’s largest fundraiser, the Gala.” The Gala raises funds for instruction in music, art, science and gardening.
Shoppers’ rising disposable income is also a factor in the grocer’s growth. In East Sacramento, median household income was $90,149 in 2011-2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By contrast, the national household median income was $53,889 in the same period.
“It’s really not that unusual for a small grocer to have an expanded deli and café,” says David Livingston, a grocery store analyst based in Wisconsin, via email. “Adding specialty departments is how a lot of small grocers become big ones over time.”
In addition to patronage from residential customers in the neighborhood, Compton’s attracts shoppers who work at the nearby Cannery Business Park. The market is located a mile from the McKinley Village housing project, begun in late 2016. “We are hoping that some of the people living in the 300-plus homes there will support us,” Hans says.