Super King Markets

Purveying high-quality international foods in Southern California
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Forrest Lancaster

The Fermanian family opened the first Super King Markets (SKM) grocery store in 1993, beginning a tradition of quality and service in Southern California. After more than 20 years in business, the company has grown and evolved, building a strong market share in and around Los Angeles. Today, SKM operates six markets, with locations in Anaheim, Altadena, Claremont, Van Nuys, Northridge and Los Angeles.

Daniel Barth, general manager of SKM, has more than 30 years of experience in the grocery industry, working in a range of markets throughout the region. Barth strives to build and maintain a strong team, promoting customer service and building inventories that meet customer demands.

The chain of markets stands out from competitors with a broad and changing variety. “We cater to numerous ethnic demographics,” Barth explains. “We have built a niche in international foods and we have a number of specialty departments to better serve our target market.”

Uncommon gourmet

The markets carry unusual or ethnic food items in all departments. SKM carries fresh dates in season, fresh garbanzos and a variety of uncommon products and produce. SKM sources products from major wholesaler Unified Grocers, with the remainder coming through several international product vendors.

Longstanding vendor relationships help the team maintain variety and quality. Customers know they can rely on SKM for their basic and ethnic food shopping needs and the six markets draw high traffic day in and day out.

In each store, a fresh bakery offers traditional items, such as French bread, cakes, Hispanic breads, baklava and Armenian cheese boreg, a filo dough turnover. A full-service deli offers imported fresh meats, charcuterie, caviar, creams and cheeses. A full-service meat counter has cuts of beef, pork, poultry and specialty meats. The produce section offers a variety of fruits and vegetables, ranging from the basics, such as onions and apples, to more exotic produce, such as avocados and pomegranates. In every department, customers can find international and ethnic foods. There is also a bulk section with nuts, candy and coffee.

Sun King Markets

Service first

SKM faces many of the common challenges in the grocery industry. Dealing with commodities, the stores are subject to increases in pricing for products, especially in meat and seafood. The state has also recently raised the minimum wage. While the team strives to reward employees for their hard work, rising labor costs make it difficult to balance strong margins with high sales volumes.

“Like anyone else, we face hiring challenges,” Barth explains. “My job is to create a company culture of service. We offer ongoing training and promote a commitment to proactive and upbeat customer service. Our goal is to bring increased job satisfaction to our employees. We all shop in stores and we are all everyday people, so we try to instill that in the workforce by bringing a human element to training. We have a leadership and motivation course with a long-term commitment to train management staff to give them more tools to reinforce the same things.”

Staying ahead

In order to maintain strong margins and keep staff motivated, SKM is also battling a struggling economy. Southern California is still a slow market and the business faces heavy competition from growing independent and successful specialty grocery stores.

Fortunately, Barth says people are more interested in food than ever. With increased access to information about food and recipes online, people are experimenting more with new foods. There is a lot of potential for growth and the SKM crew is working hard to pursue such opportunities.

Part of staying ahead involves technological improvements. SKM recently signed on with Instacart, a web-based food delivery service that uses existing stores as digital storefronts. Customer can log on, look around and shop. The service is a great fit for people who have a hard time leaving the house, whether they are too busy, disabled or lack transportation. The service is affordable compared to other options on the market and Barth and his team hope to see continued growth with the online storefront.

In the coming years, the team also hopes to open a few more physical storefronts. “We have a unique focus on ethnic foods, which is a growing market,” Barth explains. “We plan on opening one or two stores every year in the future.”

The business is also staying involved with the community, donating to food banks and other nonprofits. Relationships continue to stand out as a priority for the business as Super King Markets continues to engage with shoppers, employees, suppliers and neighbors, providing quality international foods and leading service.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Bolton & Company
Monterry Provisions Co, Inc.
Unified Grocers, Inc.