HOWS it going Malibu?


Countering the trend of consolidating into huge grocery store chains in Southern California, some of the old Hughes Family Market team is returning to Malibu in a smaller suit and with a different name: HOWS Market.

HOWS Market is an independent food retailer operated by former executives from Hughes Family Markets, Inc., which opened Wednesday.

The Malibu location is the fourth store in this new chain, intended to fill the gap left when Hughes Family Markets Inc. was converted to Ralphs in 1998.

The acquisition was complicated. The parent of Hughes Grocery Co., publicly held Quality Foods Center Inc., was acquired by Fred Meyer Inc. at the same time that Ralphs was sold to Meyer. Quality Foods was estimated to be sold for $1.7 billion. Meyer then combined Ralphs and Hughes, creating a $15 billion multi-regional supermarket chain that holds the No. 1 market share in Los Angeles.

HOWS Market will replace the former Trancas Market and be located at 30745 PCH in the mall across from Broad Beach.

“Love the neighborhood, love the people, glad to be back!” exclaimed Tom Pflaumer, assistant manager of HOWS.

The old Trancas grocery store showed signs of this change last week. There was dust on the floor, plastic on the shelves, and many managers bustling around the grocery store preparing for the new opening. HOWS Market stands in a completely refurbished 17,500 square-foot store.

A 40-year Malibu resident peered into the window and commented, “It doesn’t look that different.”

When asked about the opening, he described Hughes reputation as more client-friendly than Ralphs and expressed, “Everyone has confidence in the Hughes operation, at least everyone I know.”

In turn, Hughes has confidence in Malibu.

Mark Oerum, former vice president of operations at Hughes, described the grocery highlights: “perishables, produce, meat, seafood. [We] buy own our produce at market.”

“Organic and natural foods–finest produce and finest meat,” he added.

HOWS also brags home delivery from a brick-and-mortar place which can be called in, faxed, or ordered over the Web at

HOWS is the type of market where you can find both Cooks champagne for $5.89 and Piper-Heidsieck French Extra Dry for $40.79. Oerum also explained that HOWS niche in the market fell with; “Ralphs and Vons at one level, Gelson’s and Bristol [Farms] at the higher–we think we fit in the gray area in between–more for the clean look.”

HOWS caters to middle-and upper income clientele and aims, according to Pflaumer, to “supply quality merchandise at a fair price.” The name is an acronym for the initials of the former Hughes Market executives involved in the new venture: Roger Hughes (H), Mark Oerum (O), David Wolff (W), and Steve Strickler (S).

These four executives together number more than 100 years in the grocery store business.

Oerum said that after six months working at Ralphs he was eager to return to the Hughes family style of business.

“We just think that there is a better way to sell groceries,” said Oerum. “People here, want to be here–they enjoy what they are doing here.”