In business lingo, customer relationship is among the cornerstones of brand loyalty which leads to repeat business or patronage. In ouar local Pinoy neighbourhood parlance, we call it being magsuki, a relationship between store/business owner and customer, built over time and based on trust, loyalty, and confidence. Ria Tolentino, new entrepreneur and proprietor of Ria Filipino Groceries, is no stranger to this Pinoy “value”. While she admits that owning a grocery is a dream she has always shared with her husband, she learned the ropes of running it by her very experience in stores of her immediate family members in which she learned how to deal with customers. This very knowledge she applies to her new environment here in Melbourne.
“The initial focus of our business is to make a good rapport with all the customers that we will encounter to keep them coming back to our store,” shares Ria.
Currently, she caters mostly to Filipino clientele, given the products on the shelves. The most popular ones, according to Ria, are breads, canned goods, and beauty products. She doesn’t mind having more of the Filipino customers for now, but she also wants to capture the Aussie market as well. “I believe that most Filipinos still show respect on their co-Filipinos and we just enjoy dealing with them and making them happy, too.”
On the business front, a challenge she faces is the comparison being made by customers between
Filipino and Vietnamese products and their respective prices. However, she’s not peeved at all and even convinces them to put their trust on Filipino products and they won’t be disappointed. This kind of attitude is needed because it is her vision to expand her Filipino product line and run the business for a very long time.
Personally, and probably the more challenging one, is how to balance time between the new business with family life. Ria and her husband both realised that they have to “sacrifice and also make time for their children.” They have to strategise on how to grow the business, and at the same time spend quality time with the kids. So while they know they have to be hands-on in minding their store, they also allocate special days within a week to dine out with their children as their special bonding moments.
Ria opened the grocery on 25 December 2011, Christmas day, a special time of blessing and abudance. Perhaps that’s epiphanic of better days to come for the store. The next time you have the sudden craving for pan de sal, or Ligo Sardines, you can stop by Ria’s Filipino Grocery, and maybe get a good chitchat with Ria to make the shopping experience worthwhile and authentically Pinoy. “Suki, pabili nga!”
Ria Filipino Grocery is located at Shop 6, Victoria Square. Open Monday to Sunday, 9.30am-6.30pm.