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Partners in Business & Life – LUCKY’S MARKET

TRISH AND BO SHARON, LUCKY’S MARKET

By Val Schoger Photography by Nick Trail
The short story: Trish and Bo met in culinary school, fell in love, married, lived happily, and instead of continuing as chefs, decided to buy her family’s business, a market in Boulder, Colorado. They started a family and worked very hard to bring innovative ideas and healthy food to their customers. Slowly, they brought organic and natural food to front and center of the store and made grocery shopping fun. Their concepts found enthusiastic support from shoppers and then investors. Fifteen years later the number of Lucky’s stores has grown to 27 in the U.S. (as of January 2018). In the last two years alone, a wave of 11 new markets opened across Florida with Panama City as the latest venue for Lucky’s signature “bacon cutting” grand opening ceremony.
Today, Trish and Bo Sharon travel to each one of the new stores to take the bacon cutting knife into their own hands and welcome first shoppers who enjoy walking around the aisles sipping glasses of beer or wine – accommodated by convenient cup holders that are built into the shopping carts. “Organic” signs are the most prominent, yet they are not accompanied by steep price tags. Customers are impressed with wide selections of fresh produce of unusual varieties, in-house smoked bacon, and housemade sausages, made-from-scratch meals, freshly-pressed juices, and many more unique features.

“There’s a lot of heart and there’s a lot of hope in all of it. … To the same degree, we also know that you need people to help you along the way.”

Happily married for 15 years with two boys aged 13 and 7, Trish and Bo remain down-to-earth people with a willingness to answer questions about their fascinating personal and business success.

Describe one of your typical days. How do you and Trish work together, and how has working together changed throughout the years from being chefs, then supermarket owners, and now running a corporation?
You know, a whole lot is different. We used to work in our original store. Trish would open it in the morning and I would close it, so we’d sort of have a shift in passing. When we had children, it changed everything. Trish stayed home for a while to raise the boys. We continued to grow and open more stores. As the boys got older, Trish got more involved in the non-profit giving side of our operation, while I focused more on the day-to-day operational aspects of the business. So, we went from working at store level to having offices. It’s a different world these days. So, there was a lot of work and many shared responsibilities in the beginning.

Did that ever get tough?
People have asked us that question through the years. We’re lucky to call each other best friends. For whatever reason, we don’t get sick of each other, and I think we’ve always been respectful of each other’s opinions. We just need each other.

So, do your boys travel with you to different stores?
They come to store openings sometimes, if the travel doesn’t conflict with school. It’s a family affair.

Who does what at home and in your careers? How do you share responsibilities today?
Trish by far has the more important job, for lack of a better term, “being the mom.” Definitely, the children are by far the most important thing in our lives. Her focus is on them while, through the day, my focus is obviously more on Lucky’s.

But do you go to work together?
Not these days, no. Trish is at home. So, like yesterday for example, she went to a charity event and represented Lucky’s. We partner with the Chef Ann Foundation here in Boulder, Colorado. Chef Ann goes to public schools and introduces healthy, delicious meals to children. So, Trish volunteered at a public school in Boulder yesterday, serving the kids and getting them introduced to fresh veggies and fruit. I was at the office while Trish was out in the community. Then she picked up our kids and brought them home.

You’ve grown tremendously. What encouraged you to keep going and just be different?
It was not an overnight success. We had to learn a lot. We felt as there is food in a grocery store and, since we understood restaurants, we thought it would be very simple. The grocery business is not the restaurant business. There was a learning curve. That being stated, we love food and we love people, and love connecting with people, so those are the commonalities between restaurants and grocery stores… the same sense of hospitality and the love of food goes through both. So, that’s all we did, we focused on what we cared about and what we believed in, and the results came… better sales, more folks shopping with us and, obviously, the feedback – they loved it. You just start getting energized by that. To be honest with you, it really was a long evolution and, more importantly, it was finding the right people who are still on our team, who work with us, and build a family at the store to execute and do what we loved. People were always encouraging us and the changes we made. I think they knew we cared, and that was the truth. This was, as it is today, our baby, and we love it like a child. You pour your heart into it and hope for the best and hope people like it, and they do.

How do you balance career and private life?
Lucky’s is part of our family. It’s hard to explain it. It’s part of our lives. The children care. We have a 13-year-old who has more ideas for the business some days than I do. We find fulfillment in every aspect of the business, not only from serving delicious food to people, but being able to make a profit and give back. To me, it’s sort of everything we want from life.

Are there any special achievements that you gained through the business that you wouldn’t have had if you and Trish weren’t operating it together?
It’s a heck of a question. I don’t know what life would have been if we weren’t doing this together. The reality is that we employ a few thousand people these days, which is something that I can guarantee you we don’t take lightly. It’s something that I’m certain of. If the roots and the foundation of Lucky’s hadn’t been built by us together, it wouldn’t be a success as it is today.

 

“…the most important is to always just be open and honest. It is simple as that. Hopefully the store is reflective of that, too…”

I think we both bring such different things to the table. Trish is on hugging basis with everybody who works for us. Our personalities are definitively different. I think the reason we work well together
is because we’re the perfect complements to each other. From not only personalities to thought processes to everything, that balance makes something whole, and obviously made Lucky’s what it is. But you know, to the same degree, it’s so much more than Trish and me. We may have started it, but the success is truly built on the shoulders of everyone who works with us. It’s a big team, it’s a big family these days, and there are a lot of people and a lot of stories out there.

What was the determining factor in opening a store here in Panama City?
Again, to be honest with you, we sort of looked around and just went, “First of all, cool city, great people. There’s nothing like a Lucky’s market here. You want to try it? Let’s try it.” I don’t want to say it was as simple as that, but that was the root of it. Basically, that’s the best way to put it. Panama City has a community aspect and a caring aspect – and it’s a college town.

Have you been able to spend a few days in our city as you worked to open the store?
Yeah, I’ve been to Panama City now probably eight to ten times. When we opened the store, Trish and I were here for probably four or five days. I’ll go back from time to time. Actually, Panama City is one of the places we said, “We need to bring the kids here,” because they would love it. So, we will be back with them, probably this summer.

Describe to us how a local vendor can get their products on your shelves. What does “local” mean to you?
The reality of it is, “local” has become sort of a buzzword in marketing, and all the big corporations have jumped on. We owned the only locally-owned grocery store in Boulder. We were the locals. It’s our business, we started it. It’s the same whether it is a local farmer or a person who has a local product. There’s a lot of heart and there’s a lot of hope in all of it. It’s just our path, so we can relate to it easily. To the same degree, we also know that you need people to help you along the way. There were people who helped us. We have the ability and shelf space for anybody who is passionate about their product. I think as we get bigger, as with everything, the scale gets broader. The hope always is that people who have a dream and a good product will always have a home at Lucky’s.

What is it like as a couple working together and growing this amazing business as you have? Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Where are you and Trish on that scale?
Oh, you know, we’re just people. I think that’s the reality of it. We’re moms and dads and sons and daughters. Every day you try and do the best you can. Some days you exceed and some days you fall short. The reality is having a support system around you that loves and cares for you and accepts the failures and celebrates the wins. I think the most important is to always just be open and honest. It is simple as that. Hopefully, the store is reflective of that, too, in that we’re not preachy. Our bacon does happen to be the healthiest bacon out there. Some people won’t eat bacon and we’re perfectly fine with that. It’s come as you are.

Do you have any tips for any other couples who are working together or wanting to work together? Can you give some advice to people to make it work and make it last?
‘You just don’t stop,’ is the best way to put it. We sort of learned that in kitchens, too, … you do your job. It sounds simple, but hard work is at the end of the day always a piece of the answer, and I kid you not, luck, sometimes dumb luck.

Is that what inspired the name?
The story of the name is that we would love to say we had a dog named Lucky, but we bought our first grocery store when we were in our early twenties. We have been married for 15 years, we’re still relatively young. We met each other young, and, at that point in our lives and to this day, we just felt that we were extremely lucky and never took it for granted. I hope that the store reflects that, from the hospitality side to everything… the glass is half full in our world, if not completely. It’s just our general outlook on life.

Lucky’s is located at 2329 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Panama City and can also be found online at http://luckysmarket.com/panama-city-florida/

Val Schoger

After nine years of working in media, PR and marketing with international engagements in Germany, England, the Caribbean, and the United States, Val first traveled to the Gulf Coast and subsequently to Navarre, Florida in 2003. She was immediately smitten with Northwest Florida and considers it her chosen home. She is excited about the opportunity to share perspectives, innovative ideas, and success stories as the publisher of a magazine that helps promote one of Florida's fastest growing areas.

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