Tuesday, March 28, 2023
HomeFoodAnn Arbor bulk food store celebrates 40 years

Ann Arbor bulk food store celebrates 40 years

ANN ARBOR, MI — In the 27 years that Glenn Bourland has owned his grocery store in Ann Arbor, there hasn’t been a day that he didn’t want to go to work.

“This is my place, my sanctuary,” Bourland said.

Bourland owns By The Pound, 1952 S. Industrial Highway, a wholesale grocery store in Ann Arbor. Founded in 1982, the store is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Customers entering By The Pound are greeted with soft classical music and an array of ingredients stored in clear containers. Grocery wholesalers sell products by weight or ounce and encourage customers to bring their own containers. After weighing their empty jars, bags and oil dispensers, they can then fill them with their desired products. The weight of the container will be deducted from the price at checkout.

Customers can also use provided pouches and labels to pack products.

While the business is primarily focused on providing groceries in bulk, the concept has been embraced by the local conservation community, who appreciate being able to bring reusable containers, Bourland said. About a third of customers will bring their own packaging, he said.

“I’m a wholesale grocer, that’s my main thing — I’m trying to sell a good product at a good price and what people want,” Bourland said. “The green part is great. That’s part of it, because there’s less waste, less packaging. People are becoming more and more comfortable bringing their own containers.”

Bourland became the second owner of the store, having bought it in 1995 shortly after moving from California to Ann Arbor.

For almost 30 years he has focused on expanding the store’s offerings. He increased the spice selection from 40 spices to 200 and the tea selection from eight teas to 100 varieties. In addition to canned goods and a small selection of dairy products, By The Pound also stock a variety of different flours, confectionery, oils, herbs, beans, grains and dried fruit.

The store is ideal for those who like to experiment in the kitchen, said Maria Guion, who has worked at the store for almost three years.

“Especially if you enjoy cooking and eating,” she said. “And I like both.”

Because it focuses on ingredients rather than pre-packaged groceries, the store will pick up customers during the cooler seasons, Bourland added.

“Our business is busier when the stove and stove are heating well,” he said.

Bourland has also seen a surge in customer numbers during the coronavirus pandemic. Because his store buys products that are typically sold to restaurants, his store’s supply of items like flour and yeast remained available even when other grocery stores were struggling.

Many of those customers continue to visit his store, he added.

Nurturing good customers and good employees has remained at the heart of his business, Bourland said. His ever-growing inventory has been driven by what his customers have bought over the years. And he added that he knows almost everyone who shops with him.

“I know my customers. I have good employees. I do,” Bourland said. “I like the business part and I like the personal part. Ninety-seven percent of the people who walk through the door, I know who they are. And they know me.”

By The Pound, 1952 S. Industrial Highway, is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Find the store on social media or call 734-665-8884.

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