Three months after the former Marsh Hometown Market began operating under new ownership in Columbus, things don’t appear to have changed much.
At Needler’s Fresh Market, outside signage still identifies the store at 3075 E. 25th St. as a Marsh store.
Inside, the selection, markings and layout aren’t visibly different from what they were under the management of the now-defunct Marsh supermarket chain. Even the employee uniforms still bear the Marsh name.
All that can create confusion in a marketing situation that is more challenging than simply building a new store from scratch, said Columbus store manager Greg Scherschel, one of about 50 former Marsh employees retained by the new owner, Fresh Encounter, Inc. of Findlay, Ohio.
“We’re starting a new store from bankruptcy,” Scherschel said.
Transformation of the 35,240-square-foot grocery store into the Needler’s brand has been quietly underway for several weeks, the store manager said.
Extensive training of employees on a new system of checkout computers.
Repairing or replacing equipment
Slowly removing former Marsh brands like Food Club and Valu Time and replacing them with Supervalu brand products.
On Thursday, the first advertisements featuring the green and yellow Needler’s logo were published. Those ads stress Needler’s intentions to establish itself as offering a wide selection of high-quality items at lower prices than Marsh, Scherschel said.
Needler’s Fresh Market also plans to strongly promote fresh produce, particularly locally sourced products, as well as providing an extensive in-store bakery and deli foods, company spokesperson Eric Anderson said.
Since the new store has the same warehousing supplier as the old store, many favorites that were available through Marsh will be offered by Needler’s, Scherschel said.
When Fresh Encounter acquired 15 former Marsh supermarkets for $8 million in June, company marketing account manager Grant Covault predicted the rebranding would take several months.
Besides the former Marsh stores, the family owned supermarket management company also took over the Cincinnati-based Remke Markets this year, Covault said.
Nevertheless, expect more visible transitions in the next two to three weeks, Scherschel said.
Aisle markers still bearing the Marsh logo will soon be changed. Although the new exterior and interior store branding wasn’t scheduled to be completed until late October, the store manager expressed optimism the timetable will be moved up a few weeks.
Fresh Encounter Inc. was founded in 1995 by Michael S. Needer Sr. and the late Susan Cheek Needler. Today, it is run by their children, Michael S. Needler, Jr. and Julie Needler Anderson.
The company operates 59 supermarkets in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky that include five other brand names:
Great Scott Community Markets
Sack ‘N Save Supermarket
Founded in 1931, the Indianapolis-based Marsh Supermarkets liquidated its assets after declaring bankruptcy last spring. Eleven Marsh stores were purchased by Kroger, while the remaining 18 were closed.
At one time, there were two Marsh Supermarkets operating in Columbus. The other store, which had 26,383 square feet of space, was located at 2710 State St.
However, the store near the CSA-Fodrea campus closed in February 2013. The 58-year-old building has housed Guanajuato Grocery Store and Restaurant since March.
The Village Pantry convenience food store chain, which includes the outlet at the corner of National Road and Washington Street, was founded as a division of Marsh Supermarkets in 1966.
However, an investment firm with controlling interest split Village Pantry from Marsh in May 2007, making it its own company.
Fresh Encounter, Inc. began in 1995, when Michael S. Needler, Sr. and his family purchased CWC Companies, a retail grocery chain founded in 1964.
In 1998, Fresh Encounter, Inc. expanded with the acquisition of Fulmer Supermarkets, another retail grocery chain, originally founded in 1909, and again in 2014 with the purchase of Chief Supermarkets, based in Defiance, Ohio.
The Columbus supermarket was one of 15 former Marsh stores acquired by Fresh Encounter in June.
Today, Fresh Encounter operates stores throughout Ohio and eastern Indiana under a variety of banners.