Originally printed in the September 2020 issue of Produce Business.
With a passion for food, commitment to excellence, and focus on family, this independent New Jersey retailer undertakes exceptional produce business.
In 1976, Ray Rastelli, Jr. opened a one-room butcher shop in the small town of Deptford, NJ, where he grew up. Over the coming decades, he and his brother Tony expanded and rebranded to the family name, Rastelli. Ray and Tony now operate two stores in Deptford and Marlton, NJ, both within 15 miles of Philadelphia.
As the stores grew, so did the offerings… and the company added other perishables including produce. “We started small with mostly items directly complementary with our fresh meat as a convenience to our guests,” says Mike Bonto, director of merchandising and purchasing. “Once we established a good base of customers for those products, we began expanding the assortment until we opened our flagship store (in Marlton) with a full produce department in 2014.”
Rastelli’s strives to be a contributing partner in local communities. “We consider ourselves a family market looking to provide the same quality of products that we serve our own families,” says Bonto. “We have built a great following for our produce. Our goal is to provide the best quality produce we can buy, a great assortment at pricing that is affordable to every guest.”
Dedicated to Fresh
The Marlton Store is approximately 35,000 square feet and allocates 5,000 square feet to fresh produce. The contribution of produce to total sales in the store is around 15 percent.
Produce is one of the key departments in our store, affirms Bonto. “Perishables are the strength of our store, and fresh, vibrant produce is the immediate indicator to our guests that our store is well maintained and they can trust us and our quality in the other perishable departments,” he says.
“We offer premium quality produce, variety, and service that can’t be found in local supermarket chains.”— Mike Bonto
The department’s focus is to provide a unique offering to customers. “We offer premium quality produce, variety, and service that can’t be found in local supermarket chains,” says Bonto.
The store promotes its offerings through a variety of tools used to communicate with customers. “We have weekly circulars along with in-store and weekend specials,” says Bonto. “Product is also highlighted on Facebook and direct customer emails.”
Center of Attention
Despite the company’s origin as a butcher shop, produce is the centerpiece of the Marlton store. “Our customers see the section as soon as they walk in the store along with seasonal items in our entrance,” says Bonto. “Product is hand-stacked for maximum impact along with colorful displays.”
The department houses 36 feet of wall cases on both sides of the department with 24 feet of that being a wet case. “We have four 34-foot island cases in the center of department for a total of 136 linear feet for the islands,” says Bonto. “We also have 92 feet of bin and spot refrigerated cases at the very front of the department.”
Seasonal items are merchandised bountifully front-and-center in the department with origin signs for maximum exposure. “Displays are seasonal and fluctuate as the seasonal product comes in and out,” says Bonto. “The perimeter walls mostly stay the same with seasonal adjustments as needed. The front half of the department is seasonally changed to maximize exposure of in-season product and to build excitement with change.”
The store displays between 500 and 600 items depending on seasonality and availability. “We have seen a tremendous increase in our ready-to-eat/ready-to-cook category,” says Bonto. “People are willing to pay a little more for the convenience of having the produce ready to use rather than having to prep themselves.”
Rastelli’s prides itself on having built a premium network of sourcing partners. The company’s principal source of bulk produce, which Bonto hand-picks fresh every morning, is the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market (PWPM). Bonto reports the stores source about 80 percent of product from the Market, another 10 percent from a regional wholesaler and 10 percent from local farms.
The PWPM serves as the store’s main source for bulk produce. “This is our advantage over our competition in terms of being able to offer consistently fresh, never- warehoused, high quality produce,” says Bonto. “I have over 16 different vendors to source the best product from.”
Bonto further notes the strategic benefit of adding local farms and regional wholesale suppliers as sourcing options. “The demand is high for locally grown produce, and it’s a great draw for our store,” he says. “The regional wholesalers provide fill-ins and offer full lines of prepackaged items such as salads, juices and dressings.”
Sourcing criteria remains high at all times. “Our goal is to purchase only premium quality and size fruits and vegetables,” says Bonto. “We work with vendors dedicated to offering only the best.”
Even during the COVID crisis, Bonto reports the company’s sourcing system held up consistently. “We have been able to get needed product through our various vendors,” he says. “We have seen our vendors, customers, neighboring businesses, as well as ourselves, continue to find innovative ways to source, staff, shop and deliver products during one of the most trying times in our business lives.”
Rastelli Market Fresh – Marlton
Willow Ridge Shopping Center, 710 NJ-73
Marlton, NJ 08053
HOURS: Mon – Thurs: 7am – 9pm; Fri & Sat: 7am – 10pm; Sun: 7am – 9pm