Potomac Grocer focuses on local products, premade items -- Gazette.Net


This story was corrected on April 11, 2014. An explanation follows the story.

Most things on the shelves at Potomac Grocer on River Road didn’t take long to get there.

There are “craft” granolas from Oat My Goodness, made in Potomac; Cherry Glen goat cheeses from Boyds; Dr. Dread’s Jamaican Jerk chips and peanuts made in Glen Echo; and salad dressing from Dress It Up Dressing in Bethesda.

“Absolutely, there are a lot of local vendors,” Potomac Grocer owner Tom Spencer said. “Like anybody in retail, we want to do as much local, organic as we can. People want it.”

So far, he said, the most popular items have been the “high quality prepared foods” the store sells.

“We’re finding that’s a niche that’s underserved,” he said.

Spencer said the store opened Feb. 12, then was closed for four days that month because of snow — days when many of his workers could not get in.

He has a crew of 15 whose jobs range from chef to dishwasher to counter help for the 3,200-square-foot store, which has 1,200 square feet of kitchen space.

Other than the snow days, he said, customer traffic has been good and has improved along with the weather.

“One early Sunday, we had 100 sales,” he said.

Most sales have been desserts, fresh salads and prepared foods like his popular crab cakes, all of which are made in the store’s kitchen.

Potomac Grocer, at 10107 River Road, is on the northeast corner of Potomac Village, next to Walgreens. It is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The shopping centers at the intersection of River and Falls roads include Safeway and Giant grocery stores and River Falls Market, which, Spencer said, is similar to his store in concept.

He does not believe competition from the established grocers will be a problem. He said he has done his homework and believes there is market demand for his offerings.

Spencer, 57, grew up in Bethesda and now lives in Potomac.

Before opening Potomac Grocer, he said, he spent his career in the wholesale seafood business as a partner in Congressional Seafood. There, while selling to high-end markets and restaurants, he got the vision for Potomac Market. He picked the Potomac location after exploring Rockville and Bethesda.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau’s Quick Facts website, Potomac is an area of 25.11 square miles with a population of 44,965 people and a median household income of $173,289. Traffic on River Road in Potomac is about 16,000 vehicles per day, according to Charlie Gischlar, a public information officer for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

With those statistics, there is room for another specialty grocer, Spencer said.

His plan for success is to get to know his customers and provide them with the kinds of food they want.

“You have to have the product, the pricing and the best service,” he said.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the name of Dress It Up Dressing and the place where it is produced.