Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 9

n the stark face of changing times,
supermarkets are responding to emerging
consumer habits with sophisticated store
formats and creative new products and services.
Phoenicia Specialty Foods in downtown Houston
offers a prime example: a 28,000-square-foot, stateof-the-art
market that opened its doors in November
2011 at the One Park Place luxury high-rise, across
from Discovery Green Park. The market became
downtown Houston's first grocery store in more than
40 years.
Urban residents and workers now have a one-stop
Yummy! shop stocked with all of the market's signature
food favorites. These include a sandwich station,
salad bar, olive bar, espresso bar and a bakery with
desserts and breads, prepared daily by European and
Mediterranean chefs. The market also features a fresh
pizza corner.
" The instore experience is always our focus, " said AnnMarie
Tcholkian, one of the owners of the family-owned
business. " From there, everything evolves. "
The diversity that instores carry can translate into
other realms, she added. The Houston grocer has turned
its focus more on internal operations: product line and
customer service.
" Definitely, people are looking for curbside delivery, "
she said. " We are happy to be offering it at this time. "
Phoenicia Specialty Foods employs 125 to 150 staff,
and the restaurant has another 40. The retailer never
closed during the pandemic.
" It's been challenging to find and retain the right
workforce. At our core positions, we have kept our staff
from pre-COVID days, " Tcholkian said. " We have a loyal
and enthusiastic workforce. They help with our everyday
decisions. They are on the ground floor with everybody.
There is a willingness to work as a team of people. "
Origins of a specialty grocer
Phoenicia Specialty Foods is a dream that started
modestly in 1983. Arpi and Zohrab Tcholakian, formerly
of Lebanon, and of Armenian descent, opened
Phoenicia Deli, a 2,500 square foot, Mediterraneanstyle
delicatessen and grocery, on Westheimer Road in
Houston. Zohrab convinced Arpi that it would be best
for them to pursue their passion for food and not wait
for the layoffs that awaited those in Zohrab's engineering
profession during the collapse of the oil industry in
the 1980s.
Zohrab as a child enjoyed working in his father's
corner grocery store in Lebanon. The business came
very natural to them, and despite the economic
downturn of the 1980s, the Tcholakians were
determined and created a loyal following. Phoenicia
Deli still flourishes as a restaurant just across the street
from where it once originated and is now called Arpi's
Phoenicia Deli after the matriarch of the family.
In 1992, Phoenicia Deli leased a space to store the
many imported goods they were receiving. Soon, retail
and wholesale customers started going to the storage
space for a case of their desired, hard to find specialty
items, and eventually this grocery storage space became
a specialty foods market.
In 2006 Phoenicia Specialty Foods was born, a
55,000-square-foot international food market that
sat across the street from the deli. The enterprise has
continued to grow ever since, and has tripled in size,
thanks to loyal foodie friends.
" We are still very much at the core a family business
with owners who are very involved, but with a
different set of growing pains and scale, " Tcholkian
said. " Our specialization in the food of the Middle East,
Mediterranean, European and Eastern European regions
helped sustain us. My parents, founding owners from
the beginning, wanted to make sure we were not too
specialized and also not too overreaching that we lost
our strength, which was staying true to this niche and
serving food we grew up with and that were part of
our roots. Also, we amplified our ability to find ways to
produce hard to find or labor-intensive foods. "
For instance, the market is equipped with three
conveyor belts that transport freshly baked pita and
flatbreads from the market's mezzanine bakery to
customers on the ground floor.
Much of Phoenicia's success has been due to
importing power that has kept prices reasonable for
patrons. Everyday Phoenicia improves because of a
commitment to hear customer requests. Also, Phoenicia
prides itself on producing sought after gourmet foods
in-house, with freshness and quality in mind.
The grocer specializes in pita breads and flatbreads
that they produce (including items like Tanour,
Palestinian Bread, Iraqi Bread, Pita Puffs, Armenian
Madnakash " Pulled bread " , Zaatar Bread, Feta Cheese
Bread, Akawai Cheese Bread and Lahmajun Flatbread).
They also make at least 30 kinds of Middle East baklava
and pastries, as well as European style baked goods and
bakery staples. They make four types of hand rolled
grape leaves and cabbage leaves.
" We make labor intensive and tasty Lebanese style
Kibe, in balls and flat sheet pans, with the option to
eat fresh in the market or frozen to bake at home, " she
said. " Other labor-intensive items we produce from our
chef's kitchen include Pasticcio Greek Lasagna, Eggplant
Parmesan, Mideast Meat, Cheese and Veggie pies,
Spanakopita and Tyropita. My guess is that we make at
least 15 different kinds of feta, and the seven or so we
have by the pound in brine in the deli case is always
refreshing to breathe in. "
supermarketperimeter.com
MAY 2022 - 9
Fresh Greek
cheeses are
tantalizing for
customers.
PHOENICIA SPECIALTY FOODS, JOHN UNREIN / SOSLAND PUBLISHING CO.
http://www.supermarketperimeter.com

Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022

Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - Intro
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - STPa
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - STPb
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 1
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 2
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 3
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 4
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 5
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 6
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 7
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 8
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 9
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 10
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 11
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Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 13
Supermarket Perimeter - May 2022 - 14
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https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/supermarket-perimeter-april-2022
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/supermarket-perimeter-march-2022
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/supermarket-perimeter-february-2022
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/supermarket-perimeter-january-2022
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/-supermarket-perimeter-december-2021
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/supermarket-perimeter-november-2021
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https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_12_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_11_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_10_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_09_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_08_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_07_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_06_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_05_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_04_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_03_01
https://digital.supermarketperimeter.com/sosland/sp/2019_02_01
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