It all started in Aspen
Owner Tom Clark first got interested in the grocery business while working for Safeway while he was in college, and then with his father at Rocky Mountain Marketing Services in Denver, marketing for a number of national brands in this region of the country. He had loved being part of the retail side of the business, and soon got to know many different markets along Colorado's Western Slope, including Aspen. Clark came to Aspen on his honeymoon in 1970, and fell in love with the community, deciding to move to the mountains.
Clark was familiar with the market in Aspen, and the fact that the town badly needed another grocery store. Soon enough, opportunity knocked. A developer who owned a piece of land along Mill Street in Aspen wanted to put a shopping center there, and took a chance on Tom Clark to fill the need for a new supermarket in town.
I had sold and mortgaged everything I had to move to Aspen, and he took a chance on me when there were a lot of high net-worth individual companies that would have wanted that location, Clark says.
That first Clark's Market opened for business on Nov. 9, 1978, and soon after the store began learning how it could best serve the community.
We found out a lot of things, Clark says with a laugh. If you look at our grand opening ad, we were trying to sell medium large eggs when all people wanted were large and extra-large eggs. And whole fryer chickens no one in Aspen knew how to cut up a chicken and needed them already cut up. The store evolved to be reflective of the people we were serving.
Adding more stores to the Clark's Market family
The mix of products in Clark's Market now reflects 30 years of that business practice. Tom Clark put the strategy to use several times over, as starting in the early '90s he began purchasing other small grocery stores on the Western Slope, including Basalt, Norwood, Crested Butte, Telluride and Blanding, Utah. In the summer of 2009, Clark's opened its newest store in Battlement Mesa, Colo.
Each store has its own personality, based on the community where it resides. In resort communities, Clark's is known as a conventional grocery store that emphasizes natural, organic and gourmet products. In the more rural country stores, Clark's is a conventional store that gives people the product mix that they need, and products that help them stretch their dollars as far as they can. It's important for us to listen to people, keep our ear to the ground and make sure we're giving people the products they want, Clark says.