INDIANAPOLIS -- 50below, a frozen food closeout store, is now operating two units here.
Charles Huber, 50below's owner and chief executive officer, said the 3,000-square-foot stores, which opened in April, are growing stronger every day. "To give you an idea," he said, "we are doubling our business every three weeks."
Like any fledgling operation, 50below has overcome some initial growing pains. For instance, Huber said, when the company first opened, it offered only 35 stockkeeping units. Now it offers 85 and is continuing to work toward its goal of 125 SKUs.
"It's getting much better," said Huber, noting that the customer count in the stores is getting stronger through word-
of-mouth and newspaper advertising.
"When we opened up we had chicken, but we didn't have any pizza. So we've added pizza," he noted. "We've also added some Weight Watchers products and things like a meat trio pack, which is two pork chops, two chicken breasts and two steaks for $4.99."
Huber said the best thing 50below has done is tap a local dairy for excess ice cream products.
"When they run vanilla and want to switch to chocolate, they need to bleed the line of vanilla. They bleed it, if you will, into a tub. This goes on all day long as they switch flavors.
"So we have been buying these "bleeds," and what happens is maybe it's a gallon and a half of vanilla and they put a gallon and a half of chocolate right on top of it. And maybe the next jug is half strawberry and peach. You never know exactly what's in there," explained Huber. "We're buying 3-gallon tubs and selling them for 99 cents. You can't even get a pint for that."
Huber said the ice cream tubs are great for birthday parties or institutional use, as in nursing homes.
It's also a nice fit with the store's Breyers half-gallon product, which retails for $1.49. "We also sell three Snickers ice cream bars for 99 cents."
Another lesson Huber learned in 50below's inaugural two months is that food-service packaging isn't as appetizing as four-color, consumer-type packaging, which "works out much better," he said.
Since the opening, Huber also has started accepting Visa, MasterCard and food stamps. "All of these little things have really improved the business."
Open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, 50below employs three staffers per store. Huber still plans on opening between eight and 10 more stores in the Indianapolis area.
The 50below units, which feature a U-shape of upright doors and a center aisle, also offer various nonfrozen grocery items.
And, according to 50below's founder, all this hasn't gone unnoticed by area supermarkets. "Oddly enough," he said, "one store is right in front of Kroger's regional offices, so the suits are in there almost every week."