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Personal touch helps neighborhood store compete

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 08. 2013 10:52PM
Owner Suresh Neupane serves a slice of pizza during the grand re-opening of Nickles Market in Manchester on Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Ask Bhesh Sharma, co-owner of Nickles Market on Candia Road, which one of the many improvements he has made to the store will give him an edge over mega-chain grocery stores, and he'll quickly point to the register near the entrance.

"A familiar face, and a friendly smile," Sharma said. "They may pay less for groceries somewhere else, but this is a neighborhood market. We know our customers, and they know us."

Sharma, of Hudson, has co-owned and operated Nickles Market since December 2011 with business partner Suresh Neupane. A "grand re-opening" of sorts was held Wednesday at the store, located at 1536 Candia Road, where Sharma highlighted some of the improvements the duo have made.

"We'll call it a grand re-opening even though we were never closed while we were making the changes," Sharma said. "The regular customers, they've seen what we were doing right through it, and they've been telling people about it. You'd be surprised how many people say they used to come in and stopped coming around, then they stop in and see the changes and say 'wow.' "

Sharma did not disclose how much money he and Neupane spent on improvements.

The changes to the store are immediately evident after walking through the door. A newly-constructed sandwich counter now greets customers to the left of the entrance, offering sub and chip combo items.

To the right is an expanded selection of bottled wines. A large open area near the front could soon feature a table or two for customers to sit and eat.

Sharma said the aisles were widened to help improve customer flow through the market, and the deli section has been expanded to offer prepared meals.

"The herb chicken meal is one of our most popular items," Sharma said.

Sharma said the store has a staff of six people, including himself. He said he doesn't fear competing with the larger supermarkets, such as Market Basket, which opens a new store in Bedford on Thursday.

"People will pay more for groceries here, but they won't mind because of the service," Sharma said. "I want people here to know the customer's names when they come in, and greet them that way. They will come for that personal touch. It's all about building a relationship."

Sharma said most of the store's profits come from the sale of groceries, followed by beer and wine sales.

"We're drawing a lot of commuters too," Sharma said. "I would say about 30 or 40 percent of the customers come from Candia and Auburn."

Ida Brown of Manchester, a customer looking over the deli area of the store, said she liked the changes.

"It's very clean and bright," Brown said.

"We are new, and we are doing our best here, so please come in and see us," Sharma said. "I could never imagine being in a better place than this neighborhood. It's perfect - very friendly and very nice."

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