| Stauffers' Lititz location offers up to 850 SKUS every day. |
Signature sweets, such as molasses-bottom shoofly pie, cream-filled whoopie pies, and flaky-crusted apple dumplings, are so deeply ingrained in Pennsylvania Dutch culture that the area’s convention and visitors bureau actually promotes them as a tourist attraction. Since bakery products are such a major part of this central area of the Keystone State, it stands to reason that they would command a place of prominence in one of its oldest, and most successful, family-owned supermarket operations, Stauffers of Kissel Hill (Stauffers).
At Stauffers’ flagship store in the Lancaster County town of Lititz, one of three locations within a five-mile radius, dessert comes first, both visually and psychologically. The first thing shoppers see as they walk inside the front entrance is a 24-ft.-long refrigerated display case stacked six shelves high with pies, cakes and pastries.
A quick right turn takes shoppers directly onto the main bakery retail floor, 1,200 sq. ft. (the store is 44,000 sq. ft.) covered with built-in and free-standing shelves, tables, racks, bins and cases filled with more sweets and an extensive selection of breads and rolls. In any given week, the Lititz store offers customers between 750 to 850 product SKUs from its repertoire of more than 1,500.
Double average sales
Last year, the Lititz Stauffers racked up about $1.2 million in bakery sales, accounting for about 6 percent of the store’s total sales, says Mike Huegel, bakery buyer and merchandiser for the company. Huegel points out that the Lititz Stauffers sales are, “two- to three-times higher than the national average for an in-store bakery.”
At least 32 percent of the department’s sales come from the impulse-inducing cold case inside the store’s entrance. Huegel attributes another 6 percent to a three-door freezer case on the bakery’s retail floor filled mostly with cheesecakes from an outside local supplier.
In addition to keeping its own scores of shelves stocked, the 1,568-sq-ft. corner of real estate that is the store’s bakery production area also serves as a central commissary for the other two Stauffers locations. About 15 percent of everything produced by the 22- to 28-person bakery team, depending on the season, is delivered to the other two stores each morning by 6:30 a.m.
| Bon Maransky (left), bakery manager, and Mike Huegel, bakery buyer/merchandiser, maintain Stauffers’ strong product line and merchandising strategies. |
The other two stores, both of which are located in Lancaster County, carry about 75 percent of the product offerings available at the Lititz location. Huegel estimates that combined bakery sales for the two Lancaster stores total between $150,000 and $160,000. (Historically, only the Lititz store differentiates bakery from other grocery sales at the register; the other two stores are currently adding the necessary scanning systems to break out sales by department as well.)
New oven boosts production
The addition of a revolving tray oven last year was a production boon, Huegel says. But freezer space is at such a premium that, last year, from October through Super Bowl weekend, the store had to rent a 40-ft. freezer truck to keep enough bakery products on hand.
Both of the Lancaster stores have small production areas (between 360 and 400 sq. ft.), equipped with mixers and convection ovens where they finish par-baked breads, rolls and pies; portion cookies and apple dumplings; and ice cupcakes and cookies.
For most of the year, about one-quarter of the bakery products sold at Stauffers are made on-site from scratch, says Huegel. That number jumps to about 40 percent in the fall when local farms produce a bounty of pumpkins, apples and other fruits.
Buggies and BMWs
The bakery produces about 40 percent of its breads and sweet items from frozen doughs and 30 percent using bases and mixes. The remaining 5 percent is outsourced.
Home of the second largest population of Amish people in the nation, Lancaster County is particularly known for dessert items that originated in the farm kitchens of these descendents of primarily German and Swiss immigrants. Their traditions combine with other down-to-earth fare, such as European-style hard-crusted breads, cream-filled croissants, challahs, rugalach and baklava to create an atmosphere that Huegel describes as “Pennsylvania Dutch with a touch of Arthur Avenue,” the dynamic international food hub in New York’s “Little Italy” market area.
| Stauffers regularly designs merchandising displays around holidays and other themes. |
“Outside in our parking lot, you’ll find every kind of vehicle from horse-drawn buggies (yes, there’s a hitching post) to BMWs, reflecting the diversity of the Lancaster County population,” Huegel noted.
Aside from the long-time Lancaster County residents, the area’s bucolic beauty coupled with a building boom of new suburban-style communities of homes and rental properties is attracting an influx of residents ranging from young professionals to retirees. Recognizing that these well-traveled taste buds may crave something more sophisticated than the area’s traditional homespun treats, Stauffers plans to bring in an upscale line of European chocolate cakes to add to its refrigerated section.
Stauffers was founded by Roy Stauffer, Sr., a Lancaster County farmer, who opened a roadside produce stand in 1932 to sell his surplus homegrown fruits and vegetables. Stauffer’s sons, along with other family members, still own and operate all three stores, and are planning to replace its Rohrerstown location with a larger 66,000-sq.-ft. store within the next few years.
“Bake less, more often”
Volume-wise, pies dominate the production schedule, making up about 18 percent of the bakery’s total product line. At any given time, the Lititz store features at least 20 racks filled with 12 to 15 varieties of pies. Six to eight of which are “premium” scratch-made, such as the top-selling high-top apple and apple caramel walnut. The other pies are, “the best quality frozen pies we can find,” Huegel says.
Dollar-wise breads are the best sellers, comprising a total of 25 percent of sales (13 percent specialty loaves and rolls, 12 percent crusty varieties.) Italian and Parisian loaves and baguettes are the biggest sellers.
For breads, Lititz Stauffers bakery manager Don Maransky takes a “bake less, more often” approach to keeping the shelves stocked with fresh product all day.
“Prior to opening at 7 a.m., we bake enough rolls to get us through the morning. Then, we bake again, as needed, in the afternoon,” says Maransky, a former independent bakery owner. “With par-baked doughs, we can also bake six to 10 loaves at a time of any one variety instead of 30.”
| Pies account for 18% of Stauffers’ bakery product line. |
Last October, Stauffers debuted a par-baked, crusty artisan line and arranged an aggressive sampling program to raise customer awareness and spur sales. The breads were topped with butter in the morning and garlic butter in the afternoon.
Customers also sampled the breads with premium meats from the deli department, or simply “ripped and dipped” the breads in a dish of olive oil.
On weekends, it isn’t unusual for Stauffers to do as many as 10 bakes a day of breads, cookies and other items to keep up with customer demand. Announcements over the store’s public address system alert customers when fresh loaves are coming out of the oven.
Early bird bonus
Early shoppers are rewarded with free coffee and donuts from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. every morning at Stauffers.
“The daily donut give-away encourages local people to get into a routine of stopping in to see us at least once a day,” Maransky says. “It also gives us an opportunity to get to know many of our customers by name.”
Familiarity with Stauffers’ donuts has reaped other benefits in terms of weekly volume sales to school and church groups. (Non-profits receive a 10 percent discount on these orders.) One school has a standing Friday order for 107 dozen donuts, and a church purchases between 35 and 50 dozen each week. Donuts account for about 6 percent of Stauffers’ total bakery sales.
To make sure all 18 and 22 daily varieties of donuts are ready for opening hour shoppers, frying begins between 10 p.m. and midnight; finishing is done between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. While most of the bakery items sold at Stauffers are prepackaged, the majority of the donuts are displayed in self-service wall bins.
Because a number of local industries work on three shift cycles, Maransky must have all of his bakery displays full for opening.
“We want customers to see fully stocked cases, not racks and employees bustling around filling displays,” he notes.
Seasonal specialties spike sales
Seasonal specialties also make a big sales splash. For example, the Lititz store has sold upwards of 1,200 8-in. pineapple upside-down cakes and an equal number of lemon meringue pies over an Easter weekend.
“Customers couldn’t make up their minds between the two, so they bought both,” Maransky explains.
Stauffers seldom misses an occasion to showcase its sweets. For St. Patrick’s Day, products, including muffins, cookies, checkerboard layer cakes and cream-filled whoopie pies featured pistachio or other green ingredients. In addition to the usual calendar holidays, the store drives promotions for regional produce, such as peaches and strawberries, and other “celebrated” foods, such as peanut butter and bananas.
Stauffers of Kissel Hill at a glance
Primary business: in-store baking
Number of stores/in-store bakeries: 3 (All three locations serviced by Lititz bakery, the two Lancaster stores also have bake-off and finishing areas.)
Main bakery size: production area is 1,568 sq. ft., retail main floor is 1,200 sq. ft., plus 24-ft.-long, 6-shelf-high refrigerated display case inside front entrance
Product line: full-line bakery featuring breads, pies, cakes, wedding cakes, cookies, pastries, muffins
Annual bakery sales: $1.2 million for Lititz location
Major equipment: vertical mixers, batter depositor, rotary rack oven, deck/hearth oven, proofers, donut glazing table and icing warmer, computerized decorating machine, walk-in refrigerator and freezer, pan washer, overwrap packaging unit, dry service showcases, refrigerated self-service cases
Bakery supply distributors: Associated Wholesalers Inc., Lentz Milling, C.O. Nolt, GMG Bakery, G&H International, Slow Rise Bakery, DPI Mid Atlantic, Dutch Valley Foods, Ettline