Boehm: Smith’s Marketplace Is Thriving

Smith’s Marketplace Community Specialist Kathryn Fulton and General Manager Erik Boehm speak at Tuesday’s Kiwanis Club. Boehm said he wants to fill the old Smith’s Store by spring. Photo by Don Casperson
Los Alamos Kiwanis

Erik Boehm, the general manager of the new Smith’s Marketplace in Los Alamos, told Kiwanis Feb. 10 that the large new store is doing well. It is close to its goals, he said, and it has the second highest volume of sales in a Smith’s district that stretches from Wyoming to Mexico.

Smith’s Marketplace General Manager Erik Boehm. Photo by Don Casperson

About 30 trucks a week arrive at the new store, he said. “A couple of million dollars” in merchandise comes in every day. The store carries 232,000 items, and the Smith’s headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, tracks sales and sets goals for such things as holiday sales.

The Smith’s operation now employes 332 people—compared to about 70 in the old store in Mari-Mac Shopping Center.

Boehm, a Michigan native, started working in retail at age 15. He has very substantial experience in both large and small retail operations. He had worked for some 15 stores and was living and working in the Denver metropolitan area when Smith’s called about the new store in Los Alamos. He said the company flew him here to take a look when the new marketplace was just a foundation and a few walls.

He and his wife liked what he saw, and he accepted the job as general manager. His experience has included a variety of markets, he said, but he understands small towns. He noted, for example, that he worked for some time in Buena Vista, Colo.

Smith’s hadn’t opened a store like this marketplace in 10 years, he said, and it was “quite an honor” to be asked to serve as general manager.

He faced challenges when he arrived. Construction was six weeks behind when he came, and it was apparent that the marketplace would need far more employees than the old store. “It was very challenging to get the store ready,” he said, but he and the staff did it. One of the biggest jobs was hiring, he commented, but he felt that the store was offering opportunities for growth and development in positions that paid well.

“I really want us to be a greater impact in the community—for the positive,” he said. He wants to make the marketplace “a destination” that puts tax dollars and jobs back into Los Alamos County.

Smith’s Marketplace Community Specialist Kathryn Fulton. Photo by Don Casperson

Boehm’s new associate community specialist, Kathryn Fulton, came with him to Kiwanis. Fulton, a Los Alamos native, said, “There was no job description” when they offered her this newly created job, but, “It’s been great.” She does a lot of event planning for the store’s new canyon-side patio, and she works hard to see that all of the 332 employees “know what’s going on.”

A number of other interesting facts came out as members of Kiwanis asked questions.

Former County Councilor Fran Berting asked how the store manages inventory and keeps the products on its shelves fresh. Boehm said, “We pull from about eight different warehouses” located in places as far away as Kansas and Alaska. “We order just about every day,” he said. And the store works to “get it to you as fast as it comes.”

Chuck Kooshian asked about the time from order to shelf. Boehm said that is varies by item. Soup, for example takes about 38 hours. Produce and refrigerated goods, including deli items, take “about 16 hours.”

Linda Daly, executive director of the YMCA, asked what will be done with the old store in Mari-Mac. Boehm said he wants to fill it by spring. “There have been a couple of showings” already, he said. For now, Smith’s is maintaining security at the site, and he himself checks it frequently.

Don Casperson, lieutenant governor of the Kiwanis district in which Los Alamos is located, asked whether Smith’s still gives left-over food to the Food Bank as it has in the past. Boehm said yes. “Very little of what we don’t sell goes to the landfill,” he said. The store works with Roadrunner Food Bank and the Food Depot in Santa Fe. The store also does its best to recycle everything that can be recycled. “We don’t even fill a dumpster a week,” he said. “We’re trying to be as green as possible.”

County Councilor Rick Reiss asked Boehm’s opinion of plastic bags. Boehm said, “I love them,” for their convenience. However, he said, he has dealt with “no-plastic situations” such as the stores in Santa Fe. He said if Los Alamos takes a vote on the issue, he will abide by the vote. In the meantime, the store has both plastic bags available for free and reusable bags available for a price.

Charmian Schaller noted that the White Rock Smith’s still seems busy, friendly, and inviting. She asked about its future. Boehm said he has “no plans to close it.” Despite the opening of the new store, he said, the White Rock store’s sales are “only down a percentage or two.” He feels that the store could use  a “facelift,” but he said it is “well managed,” and serving its community well.

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