Tweaking a successful business can be a challenge – but it’s one Dave Sears of Fieldstone Deli is embracing with positive results.
Sears and his wife Jennifer purchased the popular market and delicatessen along North Long Lake Road west of Traverse City in late 2017, with the help of $70,000 in gap financing received from Venture North. Sears has long-time ties to the Traverse City Area Chamber and Venture North and reached out for assistance in the late stages of the purchase negotiations to help close the sale.
Since the ownership transition, Sears has been hard to work to transform the market to feature more of the region’s local food culture while maintaining its niche for offering quick, convenient meals.
“We’re the middle of transitioning the business to an upscale farm market,” Sears said. “We want to feature healthier and more-quality food.”
Fieldstone is stocking shelves with locally produced food products from companies like Nine Bean Rows and Food for Thought – both also Venture North clients – Esch Road Foods and others. They also featuring dozens of craft beer lines, local coffees and drinks like Northwoods Soda. They’re also offering more organic, gluten-free and dairy-free products as consumers shift to more health-conscious food choices.
While upgrading the food quality and local food inventory, Fieldstone continues to provide ready-made meals for the scores of daily customers that come in for lunch or need a quick solution for dinner. So far, the customer reaction to the changes has been “overwhelmingly positive” Sears said.
“It’s been a balance when you buy a business like this,” he said. “You can’t change too quickly.”
Sears has already added a half-dozen employees to his staff and expects to add more this summer. The business also boosted wages for its staff as part of his plan to improve the experience of everyone associated with the market.
“We’re taking better care of customers – and our employees,” Sears said.