Tony Orlando

Owner, Tony O's Supermarket and Catering

Born and raised in Ashtabula, Ohio, Tony Orlando has 50 years in the food business, having started at four years of age in 1961.

Tony purchased his store in May of 1999 from his father. Through the years, he has acquired extensive knowledge of meat and deli departments. He has consulted with other independents to help their businesses grow.

Tony has served on many Midwest beef councils and also was on the Young Executives Council for the NGA, of which he is a charter member.

Tony graduated from Ohio State University in 1978 with a Bachelors in Business Administration. He is married to wife Maria and has two sons, Michael (19) and Stephen (16). Tony is also the President of the Autistic Children’s Foundation. He loves golfing, casinos and talking shop at NGA.

  • Posted on: 07/20/2016

    Is retail’s 800-pound gorilla or a crafty coyote?

    Amazon gets more press than Donald Trump, and brick-and-mortar stores better think about how they want to stay relevant as the center store is slowly dying. Between the big box stores, clubs, dollar stores and pharmacies, the grocery staples are priced down and dirty, and the days of making good gross margins on these items are gone forever. Add in Amazon to the equation and you have to re-engineer how you run your business or failure is inevitable.I won't bore you with what I have said a million times before, but anyone who wants to stay in this business must focus on amazing perishable deals, along with signature custom deli and bakery offerings. The alternative is failure. So to my fellow independents out there, wake up soon before that 800-pound gorilla runs you over.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2016

    What does it take to compete in an off-price retail world?

    This discussion is very similar to many others in the past, as consumers in every category are searching for extreme value. Except for a few pockets of the country, the rest of us are stuck in neutral income wise and are shopping with a purpose, and that translates to bargain hunting. Off-price clothing chains do not impress me or my wife, who is a champion of knowing what deals are out there, and she much prefers to load up on the Macy's rewards and discounts before she heads out to the regular store, which has a much better selection to choose from. She does like Nordstrom Rack, but again the selection is limited, so for us we still prefer being patient and taking advantage of the amazing offers and going to the regular Macy's. For me I shop Kohl's, and just went online to order some stuff, as I got the 30 percent mystery coupon plus $10 off on $50, plus $10 off just for starters, and cleaned up on some nice stuff.Regular price is insane and consumers know it, so the regular stores will continue to offer great deals if you are patient, plus the selection is much much better in my opinion.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2016

    What is Starbucks baking up with its latest investment?

    Email me, as I have a short memory, and I'll get it to you. Sorry Ian!
  • Posted on: 07/15/2016

    What is Starbucks baking up with its latest investment?

    Excellent point Ian. Starbucks is trying to grow sales by investing in this bakery concept that most likely will fail, unless they designate someone with the skills to bring the product to life, just as the bakery does, which will be very difficult to replicate. My recipes for our salads and signature baked goods are prepared right here on the premises, thus giving me and my staff the control we need to keep the products perfect every time. The one thing that could work for Starbucks is if Princi produced a par-baked product that needs finishing at the store level, with some garnishing of olive oil or cheese, and that could be a hit. You can control the baking better and spread out the production based off-peak demand for the product, which keeps it very fresh, as it only has a one-day shelf life. The commitment to Fresh is always the goal and quality is a must if you are going to command the prices they want to put on the breads. Have a great weekend everyone.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2016

    Viewers can now ‘Watch & Shop’ with Amazon Fire TV

    This will appeal to the "Amazombies" but for me, my time is too valuable, and if I want something on Amazon, I will order it. I tivo shows so I don't have to watch the commercials, except the Super Bowl, and Amazon, to their credit, is going to try new things, as that is what they do. Perhaps a drone, with an LED screen big enough to get sponsors, as it flies thru the night sky, delivering small packages to their hardcore fans. Stay tuned folks, as more wizardry will be coming soon.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2016

    Will new gen grocery stores cut waste down to zero?

    Waste-free sounds nice to the folks who want to promote this but it is impossible to do, and yes we want less waste but I doubt very much my customers are going to bring in their glass jugs to get their milk.Technology in packaging is getting better and biodegradable packaging for milk and many other foods is becoming more commonplace, which is all good.These trends are huge with foodies, who want their pepper salad in Napa Valley to be picked that morning from the farmer down the road, again, which is nice, but in Northeast Ohio in January, that is not an option. A common sense approach to this is what all of us currently do, and lets keep government out it, at all levels, as their solutions end up costing stores extra burdens and money they can not afford to spend. I give all my produce trim to farmers for their livestock and recycle our cardboard, which helps a lot, but I love the plastic bags at the checkout, and would be unwilling to be mandated to change this, so I guess we'll see how this ends up.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2016

    Dollar stores — they have the meats

    As someone in the custom meat arena, everybody is in the meat game, as talent for some no longer matters. Discount Drug Marts sold boneless center-cut pork loins in the bag plus sauerkraut for the last three New Year's holidays. They threw them in a refrigerated bin and boom, they are in the meat business. One customer actually came into my store with two of them, wanting me to slice them for free. I politely told her no.With pre-packed and in many cases injected for extra shelf life meats, gas stations can sell meats today. So where is this all going? You can not stop the fact that it is easy to sell something bought in a box, but if you look at the prices per pound they are much higher. Folks see them in a Dollar General and immediately they think they are going to get a bargain based off their grocery prices. Many said "Retail ain't for sissies" and it is absolutely true, and the poorer the area, the more these pre-packed meats will continue to grow, even though the quality is not there.What I do, is continue to run outstanding meat deals and make sure our customers know the facts about the competition, because if you do not stand up for yourself, no one else will. Marc's Stores all have huge meat sections, with much higher prices, but their reputation on staples, gives them a leg up on the perception of great savings. For my fellow supermarket owners, my advice is to always be aware of what is going on in your marketing area, and stay vigilant on providing excellent quality meat deals, and make sure your butchers are out on the floor talking to your customers. There is a great chance at keeping your customers loyal, as you have what the other stores will never have, which is great service.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2016

    Will Kellogg’s cereal café snap, crackle or pop?

    PT Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute," so if this is successful, than the logic holds true. Have we run out of great ideas? Absolutely not, but this isn't one of them. $10 beers at a stadium is a rip off, but it is a captive audience. This will not fly.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2016

    The independent retailer lives on

    Thanks Ed. My scars are earned, and proud of all of them. They are kind of like a business tattoo.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2016

    The independent retailer lives on

    Excellent subject, as this is my entire life. I watched and learned from my dad since the age of four, and back then we were "thee" place to shop, and my dad knew how to run a great store where custom meats, a strong perishables department and groceries displayed stacked to the ceiling kept the customers coming back for more. Wow have times changed, but there are still some old-fashioned values I learned that never go out of style, regardless of technological advances.Top-notch service with a smile is number one, as it is something my employees have seared into their brains when they are hired. I have been to many retail stores and, generally speaking, a well-run independent store owner provides better service than the big box stores by a wide margin.Many of the big box stores no longer have a meat cutter and we need to take advantage of this, and many stores do, but it goes beyond that for a store to succeed. We have worked hard on social media, with e-mail blasts, videos and an amazing Facebook page which is updated often to stay in touch with our customers and is a must to build and retain loyalty. Providing excellent value in the center-store is something we need to dramatically improve if we are to remain relevant in the discount world we have today, and partnering up with regional suppliers is a great way to offer unique values that the big stores will not have. The owner should either be up to snuff on nutrition or hire someone in their deli that can create goods with a healthy twist, and be able to carry some locally-sourced goods that the foodies love.One thing that always works is being involved by volunteering in your community, and there are numerous ways to get involved. I talk to kids in the county schools, encouraging them to reach for the stars from 1st grade to 12th grade, and it is badly needed. Always be networking either at a business expo, or at your annual chamber event passing out samples of your signature foods or sitting on the county leadership councils that help promote jobs in your community.Lastly, don't be afraid to tell your customers that you are more than ready to help them when they come into your store and stay sharp on your pricing, as the perception of value is very important, especially to a first time shopper, and make sure you get out onto the floor whenever possible to simply chat with your customers, as they love it. With the 4th of July holiday around the corner, we are celebrating "Independents Day," and it will be at the top of my ad this week. Have a great week everyone.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2016

    Millennials love their grocerants

    This article is near and dear to my heart. Wegmans has been and always will be a fresh paradise for customers to shop, and I give them a five-star rating for how they run their stores. Whole Foods has nice stores as well, and I am going to focus on the independents as well. When I travel, I always end up going into a supermarket/deli that has a good rating on Yelp, whether I am in Napa Valley or Hilton Head. There is something special about a well-run local store that really knows how to showcase prepared foods and bakery, and I am there to enjoy, buy and learn as well. About eight years ago we converted to 100 percent scratch-prepared everything in our entire deli case, with top-quality ingredients. I am glad I did, as we have created a niche that no one else around can duplicate.Yes it is labor intensive, but the loyalty to our signature entrees, salads and desserts is off the charts, and we price it fairly to keep them coming back. Our bakery also has signature items, such as extra gooey iced cinnamon rolls and pepperoni/cheese soft bread sticks, which sell like crazy. My point is that this type of setup keeps growing in sales and profits, while the staples in the center of the store have been steadily declining. There will always be a strong demand for high quality foods to-go, and it takes a huge commitment from anyone who chooses to go this route, but believe me it keeps the customers coming back, and that is what all of us in business need. I wish I had even more room to increase the selling space, but we are still growing our deli/ bakery, and customers never get sick of eating high-quality foods. My advice to stores looking for growth is to take a hard look at your deli/bakery and make it so special that your customers keep coming back for more.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2016

    Should sales guide pricing decisions?

    Interesting topic, as I live this everyday. There is no set answer to this question, as pricing needs to be determined by region and broken down even further by town and economic activity inside the town. In my case, and again this is my scenario, price is KING, and to play games with BOGO or high-low pricing is a recipe for failure, as our customers know the prices of every store's staples and will buy where they get the best price. Kroger for the most part is not in this situation, as I have been in many of their beautiful stores, all in nice high-income areas. Their market will allow for better margins, and Kroger knows this, and a commitment to keeping prices fair and competitive is exactly what all of us need to do, but in their locations margins are a bit higher, and good for them.Bringing value every single day is important and consumers can buy food absolutely everywhere, especially non-refrigerated staples. So if we are not sharp on pricing, we will see sales continue to slip, even if it costs us gross margin. We are aware of the pricing in our area and that in itself is important, as we know what the market will bear on certain products, especially during the holidays, so it is very important to provide value on all key items and make extra margins in your perishable departments. Everyone is armed with smartphones and price checking apps, so keep the pricing sharp every day or risk becoming a store with tumbleweeds rolling through the aisles.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2016

    Who will buy Neiman Marcus?

    Neiman Marcus has hit the "wall" on sales, and they could sell if and only if they are willing to accept much less than the asking price. Online, along with a bad economy, is making them less relevant today. More and more of this stuff will continue to happen, as investors want to clean out their slow-moving portfolios and department stores are all struggling to grow. Good luck to them as, in my opinion, it will get worse before it gets better.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2016

    Will an online dollar store work?

    I don't see this as a huge success or even surviving, as shipping costs will eat any profits they might make. I admire the effort, but Amazon is watching, along with others, and could easily add this to their lineup and make it tougher for hollar to take off. We'll see what happens.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2016

    Home Depot and Lowe’s can’t touch Ace for satisfied customers

    This discussion is like my store vs. the Walmart supercenter 4 miles down the road. We are known for great service, and custom prepared meats, and deli-bakery, and that is our calling card, along with insane in and out bargains. The supercenter is a giant airplane hanger that happens to sell a lot of groceries, and is designed to be one stop shopping, along with the presumption of lower prices. We as independents in all facets of retail generally do much better at treating our customers as guests, and they appreciate it, and yes it is an apples and oranges comparison being made here. We need more of this type of publicity, as smaller retailers are struggling to stay in business, and the corporate discounters, and online sales have decimated many small towns.

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