Having a thriving business for the long-haul is always a challenge. Most businesses fail in a year or two, and only a handful make it for a decade or two. Lakeview Supermarket and Deli established June 13, 1970 has just passed the fifty-year mark. Anyone who has been around Lake county for the past five years will attest to the fact that we have had more than our share of disasters. With floods, fires, evacuations, power outages, and now the COVID-19 pandemic it has been the most challenging time in Lake County history to be in business! But, Lakeview has survived it all.
It has not been easy for Kenny Parlet, who has been there since the beginning. Kenny and his dad opened the first Lakeview Market on 3rd Street in Lakeport just over fifty years ago. With six grocery stores in Lakeport alone, the competition has always been tough. The secret to Lakeview’s success has been the creation of a niche in a commodity market. After opening two more stores, one in Clearlake and another in Lucerne, it was evident that more, is not always better. As K-mart and Walmart came in and Grocery Outlets, and now Dollar Generals in most towns, then add the fact that every gas station also sells groceries, Lakeview had to focus on a specialty to survive. With grocery profits sitting at 1% annually the future looked pretty grim.
Lakeview did a number of things that contributed to their success. First of all they sold the Clearlake Store, then the Lakeport store, and put a total focus on the Lucerne store where it became a high-end, full service meat market.
The next big idea was to take the award-winning meats on the road and Lakeview created their highly successful catering business, Lindy’s Quality Catering. This part of the business came out of the new addition of Lakeview’s deli. With great sandwiches, party trays and fried chicken to start, the move to complete catered affairs followed with the efforts of Kenny’s sister Lindy Hamner. The higher profits from catering helped survival for the company for many more years.
Lakeview went on to become a Nationally Recognized award-winning meat market in 2018, when it became Progressive Grocer’s “Outstanding Independent Meat Retailer of the Year”. Lindy’s Quality Catering was also showered with numerous awards for “Best food”, “Best Caterer”, Best of show at numerous Lake County Wine and other events. Things were looking good!
With profits still hovering around 1%, the State of California sought to raise wages and put small grocery and restaurants in jeopardy with a series of huge raises in minimum wage starting at 12 ½% per year. Within just five years, entry level, unskilled employees were all getting 50% more money, devastating the remaining profits driving restaurants out of business all over the state and putting all small businesses at risk, especially grocery stores. Payroll numbers soared, and even cutting staffing to bare minimums was not cutting it. Kenny and his wife Deana were forced to work 7 days a week to remain profitable.
On top of all this, the string of local Lake County disasters started to roll in, one after another. With the fires, the floods, the evacuations, and the PG and E shutdowns, it seemed the universe was focused on destroying Lake County businesses for good. If all those closures were not enough, a world-wide pandemic comes in to strike another serious blow.
While many, many small businesses will not survive the pandemic, Lakeview fortunately, is an essential service business and is doing well through the pandemic.
Lakeview Supermarket and Deli is looking forward to celebrating their 50-year anniversary with their customers when life goes back to normal with another Parking lot sale and customer appreciation barbecue. Only time will tell when that event will occur! Kenny, Deana and his staff look forward to the time that disasters are just a memory and life is somewhat normal again with simple, manageable, daily struggles!
Just for the record, Kenny has no plan on giving up any time soon, and is looking forward to a 55-year anniversary sale in 2025!