UTICA--Technology is not usually the first thing that comes to mind about a hometown supermarket, but Chanatry's Supermarket on French Road in South Utica is taking full advantage of the World Wide Web to maintain a strong relationship with customers and community.
CEO Bill Chanatry uses the company's Web site at www.chanatrys.com for more than advertising. The site offers recipes, weekly specials, coupons available only on the Web site, a listing of services, special services for members of the community (such as bus service for senior citizens), a map of the store, a store directory for searching for particular products, and much more.
Like its other advertising, the site stresses Chanatry's community orientation under the motto: "Your Local Independent Grocer Since 1912--Where Your Money Goes the Farthest, But Still Stays at Home."
Despite the ready adoption of technology and the latest marketing tools, Chanatry's remembers that personal service and down-to-earth orientation have fueled the store's success since its 1912 founding.
Bill Chanatry recalls, "This business was started in 1912 by my father Michael and his two brothers Raymond and Yorohaki, who emigrated from Aleppo, Syria, to escape from the Ottoman Turks. In those days, they grabbed you off the street and drafted you. The Turks tried to grab my father from the ship when he tried to escape Fortunately, the law of the sea prevailed, and the Turks were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, his mother was trying to escape, too. "My father came through Ellis Island, and my mother came as a stowaway through Philadelphia. She came as a daughter of Elias Jweid, a Syrian."
"The first Syrians settled in Utica. They came and tried to get jobs, but they could not speak the language," explains Chanatry. "It was tough. They decided to start a business. They started selling pita bread from push carts on Bleecker Street. Gradually, they went into a storefront on Bleecker Street.
"In 1938, Chanatry's opened the first supermarket in upstate New York ... possibly the country. Progressive Grocer features a photograph of Chanatry's in its December 1996 issue. The caption reads: 'The power of strong merchandising, not to mention an extensive floral operation, was not lost on early supermarket operator such as this Chanatry Market (circa 1939 in Utica, N.Y.'" The photo shows an attractive display of fresh products and flowers to attract customers to the and opening of the new supermarket.
"Progressive Grocers defines a supermarket as a self-service market that departmentalized and has $1 million in revenue a year," explains Bill Chanatry "Chanatry's met the criteria. In 1938, we had the first electric National Cash Registers; now, we have a brand new IBM system." He feels it's important to work with state-of-the-art technology to meet the needs of customers.
The three Chanatry brothers were vision. aries. That was their big claim to fame, say Bill Chanatry. "Raymond was truly visionary. He mastered the language an the market. He was the creative genius..." his nephew believes. "My father died month before the new store opened. He died in September, and it opened in December 1938."
Bill Chanatry grew up in the family business. He was one of 13 children. The business grew as the family did.
Bill's parents wanted to educate the children. "In my immediate family, the parents insisted we all go to college Unfortunately, the girls had to work because they were going to get married. That was a driving force in that generation. Their children were going to be better educated than they were.
"We have the best customers. We have about 25,000 customers, and feedback to us is better than most places. If someone has a good suggestion, we act on it as fast as we can. Our advantage is that we are local and independent. That helps us develop a relationship with our customers.
"Today," says Chanatry, "We are the area's largest independent supermarket, and we are voted Number One in the area."
When the Utica Observer-Dispatch conducted a survey in 1998, Chanatry's won the Best of the Best award. Chanatry has a formula for success: "You treat people the way you want to be treated."
Copyright Central New York Business Journal Jan 29, 1999
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