Open and say ‘Wow’ – your fun-lovin’ grocers have arrived

Kevin and Nicole Waters met in a grocery store and fell in love – with each other and the business. He rose from box boy to store manager. She’s worked as a cheese monger and managed a health care clinic. On Oct. 5, the couple with five kids, a dog and cat will open the new Woodbridge Village Grocery Outlet as independent owners-operators. On Sat., Oct., 7, they’ll hold its grand opening. In this Only In Irvine interview, they explain what you can expect for savings and service (the operative word is “Wow!”) at Grocery Outlet – the centerpiece of a $30 million reinvestment of Woodbridge Village Center.

Q. What got you into this business?

Kevin: I managed with Safeway (Von’s) for 15 years, and an independent natural food store for the last 4 years. Nicole managed a health care clinic. We knew we wanted to work together, and felt we made a strong team. We considered opening a restaurant and even our own small natural foods convenience store in our hometown. Grocery Outlet was the perfect fit.

Q. What will surprise people the most when they enter your store?

Nicole: If they haven’t been to Woodbridge Village Center recently, they will be awed by the amazing view and surroundings in the center plaza area. It is quite a stunning environment to operate a store.

When they enter the store, they will immediately see a selection of our fresh presentation, as well as our “Power Wall” promoting grocery products with over 50% savings from conventional grocery prices. We call it the WOW! Factor. What makes Grocery Outlet different from most price competitors, is that we have very little private label inventory, we are heavy on brand name items that customers know and love. With a particular brand that a customer absolutely knows the going market price, when they see it at 50% or more less they say “WOW!” If customers aren’t familiar with Grocery Outlet, the bargains on natural and organics as well as wine will be an eye opener.

Q. What would we be crazy to leave out of our basket?

Kevin: We have a dozen cage-free eggs for $1.50 – that is a 62 percent off savings. We have Adorn Cabernet Sauvignon at two-for-$6 dollars for the wine drinkers – that is an 80 percent off savings.

Q. How did you meet?

Nicole: I was on my way to work and I stopped into Safeway for a lunch salad in the morning. Kevin was walking the store with the District Manager at the time, and we kept running into each other throughout the store. The following Saturday we saw each at the North Country Fair in Arcata and Kevin struck up a conversation with me. The following Monday I told the girls in my office that I thought I met the man I was going to marry. We had our first date, and the date never ended.

Q. Why did you choose Woodbridge Village?

Nicole: When Kevin and I decided to become independent owner/operators of a Grocery Outlet, we knew we wanted to find a community that was safe, with great schools, and a place where we could call home. When we came to Woodbridge, we felt that sense of community. It was beautiful, clean, the schools are the best, and we truly felt we could call Woodbridge home. When we were selected as the operators for the Woodbridge Village Grocery Outlet, we knew we wanted to live within the Yale Loop.

Q. Why should we shop at your store?

Kevin: We feel strongly that our unique model will be a benefit to the Woodbridge community. By shopping our store first residents will save money and be delighted by our extreme values, especially in key areas such as natural and organic (NOSH), general merchandise, wine, and pet products, among many others. We will also be responsive to customers, listen to feedback and be available at all times. Not only will residents save, but as community members we will give back. We will participate. You will not only see Grocery Outlet as a brand, but you will see our family participating in sports, schools and local events.

Q. Tell us three things most people don’t know about you.

Kevin: We love the blues. We watch the TV series “Game of Thrones.” (Nicole read the books and she will tell you all about them.) And we love Premier League Soccer.

Q. Describe a guilty pleasure.

Both: Chocolate is our downfall. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants though.

Q. How are you feeling this week?

Nicole: I am really excited to open this store, I actually burst into tears when we received our picture of the founder of Grocery Outlet, Jim Read this week, and even thanked his picture. As a wife of a lifelong grocer I have seen the ups and downs, waited at home on inventory nights, and gave Kevin the support he needed. Now I am a grocer and get to sit side by side with Kevin with ‘our’ ups and downs, and stay up late on inventory nights.  I feel so proud that I can help Kevin, help our family, and do good work for the community we live in.

Kevin feels very fortunate for the opportunity that Grocery Outlet has given us. He feels so much anticipation for the opening of the store and a great sense of pride that he has come full circle within the grocery industry. From box boy, to dairy manager, to assistant manager, to store manager, all those years of hard work are paying off in the best way, as an independent owner operator of a beautiful new store in an amazing community.