Longtime Nugget Markets executive Dennis Lindsay offered a look into the past, present and future of the iconic local grocer during a presentation Sept. 20 to members of the Davis Sunrise Rotary Club.
Nugget started in Woodland in 1926 and has grown to 12 stores today, including two stores in Davis.
Lindsay introduced Gene Stille, currently chairman of the board, who has been with Nugget since November 1929. Also introduced was a new generation member of the Stille family, Stephanie Stille, who currently does specialty buying for the chain but who is transitioning into operations as store director for the Mace Boulevard store.
The grocery market in Davis has changed a great deal in the past 15 years, Lindsay said. A number of stores that were present then — Albertsons, Lucky and Ray’s Market — are not present now. Plus, there are several new markets in Davis, including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Target.
“It’s a tough business in Davis,” Lindsay said. “There has not been a lot of population growth, but there is a lot of grocery space.”
In response to the question as to why Nugget employees are so helpful and friendly, Lindsay said, “We work at it.”
Some 50 percent of Nugget employees are younger than 30. All new employees go through a three-day training period, and then another eight hours of training in the stores, and then 16 to 20 hours each year in continuing education. Promotions are based in large measure on attitude, and service is a big part of the employee evaluation.
“It’s difficult to be in the grocery business in general,” Lindsay said. “Profit is only about 1 percent. You can’t afford to make many mistakes.”
He also said product lines are changing over time. Nowadays, people don’t cook as much, so prepared foods and the deli department have grown. On the other hand, the meat department has struggled.
One Rotarian asked Lindsay about the origin of the name “Nugget Markets.” Apparently, soon after the first store opened, the Stille family conducted a contest to name the store. The first market was on Main Street in Woodland, and a little girl in Woodland won the contest with the suggested name — Nugget.