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The Market at River Falls: How They Maintain a Close Relationship with Dedicated Customers

Article by Marie Robey Wood

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

Question: How Can a High-End, Local Food Market Keep Its Loyal Customers When It Must Raise Prices Due to Inflation?

Answer: You start with transparency– educate shoppers on how you're handling the rising costs of food and restaurant products. Jim McWhorter and his wife, Yasmin Abadian, owners of The Market at River Falls in Potomac, tackled this issue head-on by sending their loyal customers an email in July, explaining why they needed to add a 3% charge to offset inflationary prices.  

Their email started out by acknowledging that inflation is running close to 9%. What customers may not know is that a number of animal proteins (beef, chicken, pork and seafood) have risen in price 15+% from pre-Covid times.

The high cost of fuel has become the primary reason that the price of seafood has risen. The Market offers at least twenty types of fresh fish and ten types of shellfish. An example cited in the email was of one ship captain who is paying $1,000 more for fuel now than he was in February, increasing his overall costs. Ultimately, this cost gets passed onto the wholesaler, retailer and the customers.

When possible, The Market sells local products in an effort to support the community. But when the highest quality cuts of meat aren’t available locally, they import from elsewhere –including lamb from Australia and veal from France. In addition to transport, grain and labor are more expensive.

Regular shoppers love that 90% of the store’s prepared food is made in-house daily. Yet they might not be aware that the essential ingredients used to make these foods have become more expensive – such as Mayonnaise (up 40%) and Fryer Oil (up 55%). Plus, who would think that the cost of ancillary items such as paper bags, containers, aluminum foil, and even vinyl gloves are 30% more than they were a few years ago?

The Market’s owners rely heavily on their loyal staff to help run the store. They are sensitive to the fact that with rising inflation, their employees need a steady and reasonable income. Consequently, they have given all of their full-time staff four raises since 2020. And in return, The Market has seen zero turnover.

Their email received approximately fifty responses, most of which were positive. As one loyal customer wrote, “There wasn’t a lot in it that we didn’t already know but thank you for connecting the dots.”

Finally, supporting their community is central to McWhorter and Abadian. In the height of the pandemic, with the support of their customers, The Market distributed free food to five local fire stations, the local hospital and disadvantaged children. Earlier this year, they also held a fundraiser that raised $38,000 for the people of Ukraine.

Businesses featured in this article