Jim Hiller’s Blog

Hiller’s is your Huckleberry

doc-holidayI’m always amused when I meet customers who tell me that they only shop at Hiller’s for holidays and important events. They believe we’re too special for everyday shopping… Apparently they have overlooked the fact that we have Froot Loops , Pepsi, Spam,Tide and Charmin toilet paper and all at very competitive prices… It’s true… Hiller’s has everything from Spam to caviar; not only caviar. There’s about 50,000 items in between that covers everything a family needs day to day and week to week. Best of all it’s all under one roof so you don’t need to waste fuel driving to different places to satisfy your grocery needs.  We even give you loyalty club points for every dollar you spend at Hiller’s which translates to special offer’s, free products, reduced prices and even charitable donations.

Am I biased? Of course I am, but why not see for yourself. Compare our aisles to any or all of our competitors. I’m confident that you’ll conclude what so many of your friends and neighbors already have. Hiller’s provides genuine value. And, when price and value coexist it’s a beautiful and rare thing…

The Rite of Spring

Spencer-HillerThe 3rd Friday of March is a singularly important day to a singularly important part of the future health and wellbeing of these United States.

It is none other than National Residency Match Day and for the graduates of medical schools every year it determines where they will train in their respective specialties’ on the road to becoming practicing physicians anywhere from 3 to 12 years thereafter.

I have been fortunate to be immersed in the ritual fire dance that finding a desirable residency match entails twice in my life. Most currently with my son Spencer who graduates in May 2014 from University of Michigan Medical School.

Securing a spot in a choice residency program is no easy thing. Spencer chose a career in Urology which is a particularly tough to get specialty and much hard work is involved on the student’s part he or she is to succeed. In Spence’s case, he spent a month working in a Urology program in California at Keck School of Medicine at USC, at University of Michigan Hospital Department of Urology and at Beaumont Hospital Department of Urology. During each of those rotations every day was a two-way audition with each seeking to demonstrate worthiness of the others’ desire. Naturally the prospective resident needs to work the harder of the two in order to demonstrate their worth; especially when seeking a career in a specialty like Urology where only about 60% of applicants find a matching program.

In a perfect situation every residency program would have hundreds of medical students to choose among and every program would want every student but that is far from the case. Obtaining a spot in a storied and top quality residency program is highly competitive and there is a paucity of available openings.

Following this period of rotating through numerous programs by the students, both the medical students and the residency programs rank each other in order of desirability.

Finally… through the facilitation of a third party corporation the lists of both the medical students and the residency programs are spun through a wash and dry cycle and for many or most medical students and residency programs a match occurs.

On Friday March 21, 2014 I sat in a room at University of Michigan Medical School as the drama of the residency match came to its conclusion. At precisely 12:00 noon envelopes were distributed to each medical student containing a letter advising them where they would be spending the next phase of their training.

For many there were tears of joy. At U of M Medical School most students get their first or second choice. For a few there were tears of sadness that they did not and for one or two there was no match at all so other paths to the future have to be explored.

In case you’re wondering. Spencer Charles Hiller, University of Michigan medical class of 2014 will be a Urology Resident at Beaumont Hospital.

A basket of benefits

I have been asked innumerable times why Hiller’s doesn’t have the lowest price on every item we sell when compared to our surfeit of competitors. My answer is always the same. It’s because Hiller’s gives you genuine value in ways nobody else does.

The real essence of value is the tradeoff between the benefits a customer receives and the price he or she pays for it. And in life as we all know a picture is worth a thousand words.

Need we say more?

Hiller's grapes

Hiller’s grapes vs. the competition


A leap of faith

Every time we decide to open a new Hiller’s we take a mighty leap of faith. I suppose from a distance it appears to be an uncomplicated act of merely replicating the past. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The decision of where to locate a new store can take months, even years. It takes into account current residences and forecasts of future rooftops within a 4 mile radius. A grocery cannot succeed in a vacuum . We must have lots of houses nearby. The balancing act is that we seek an area that is in a growth phase and not its dotage because families with kids make the best customers. They tend to eat at home often instead of  going to restaurants .

Once we’ve chosen the site or at least the area, next comes the decision of the size of the store. In the years I’ve been in the grocery business the so-called ideal size has gone from about 18,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet and now many believe to as much as 125,000 square feet. From where I sit a full-service grocery should be around 45,0000 or 50,000 square feet. Our newest location in South Lyon is 53,000 square feet. We plumped up a bit to add a demo kitchen and wine and beer bar.

Once we’ve made the decisions of location and size the real fun starts. We begin the design of the store layout. This amounts to hundreds of small choices that are made by an arm wrestle between our design and operations team on one side and our financial group on the other. The justification for and price of each refrigerated case, shelf and accoutrement must be argued and decided . After all..small businesses like ours don’t have the money in the bank to build a store. We must borrow it from a bank and sadly they expect us to pay it back and not consider it a gift. Once we’ve put our design and our specifications on paper we begin the process of negotiating with banks to find one who is willing to provide the financing for our leap of faith.

From the inception to the store opening can easily take 3 or 4 years. During that time, like a small boat in a storm, we are buffeted by the economy, differing food trends, vagaries of consumer preference and even changes in the financial markets.

At long last, we open the doors of a new Hiller’s with fingers crossed for luck and with the full knowledge that for our leap of faith to succeed we must do our very best every day to give our customers the quality, service and shopping experience they desire.

Our newest location at 10-Mile Road and Johns Road in South Lyon took almost 5 years to complete. I welcome your review of our latest leap of faith

The Queen is Dead….Long live the Queen

On April 30, 2012 my beloved Scottish Deerhound Lilly died. She had languished for six months with pancreatitis and kidney failure. Dutifully I gave her bags of subcutaneous fluids every day and fed her from my fingers in an unsuccessful effort extend her life.

In the end she was euthanized in my arms and I watched as her soul left her body and she fell limp like an empty shell at the seashore. I felt empty without her. No creature under the stars of heaven had ever been so perfect as my beloved Lilly. I was heartbroken and felt that I had a hole in me that could never be filled.

Eleven months later I received a call from a couple in Vermont who breed and raise Scottish Deerhounds. Lee and Lois Resseguie had learned of my loss and as serendipity would have it they called to say they had a puppy that needed a home. I was unsure. Could my emptiness be repaired by a replacement or would a new deerhound merely be a soulless copy of my beloved Lilly.

As I write this today, Daisy my brand new deerhound is gnawing at my elbow because I’ve ignored her entreaties for almost 5 minutes. She growls and bounces when she wants my attention and she nuzzles and coos when she has it. Best of all my house is once again alive with the sound of galloping Deerhound feet and my life has once again been filled with an odd looking creature who needs me as much as I need her. I often describe her as a greyhound with my hair.

Lilly has not returned to me and she will have a permanent inscription in my heart, but even an old fox like me can still learn new lessons of life and one that I’ve added to my personal storehouse is that a puppy can heal a broken heart.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

– Alexander Pope