Toucan Market celebrates 10th anniversary Saturday
By Alta LeCompte
Las Cruces Bulletin
For 10 years, an unlikely pairing of business partners has brought Las Crucens the special foods their diets require or their palates crave.
Former newspaper executive Richard Cole and career grocer Bob Bauer will celebrate Saturday, June 27, doing what they do seven days a week, serving the community at Toucan Market, 1701 E. University
Ave, in the Pan Am Plaza.
They’ll be on hand to personally thank their customers, many of whom they know by name. Starting at 10 a.m., the community will have an opportunity to sample meats and cheeses, taste local wines from noon to 6 p.m. and enter a drawing for a Belgium Brewing fat tire bicycle. There will be pizza from Joshua’s Pie mobile brick oven in the parking lot from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Toucan, open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., is known for its New Mexico beef, organic beef, fresh fish delivered three times a week, local and organic produce and gluten-free products.
“Our actual corporate name is Unique Foods, and we think about that every day,” Cole said.
He said the idea for the market came to him when he couldn’t find some of the foods he wanted at supermarkets.
“We went on a little journey,” said Cole, who toured the country with his wife, Christy, looking at options.
“We grabbed ideas we thought we’d like and came back to Las Cruces,” he said. “But I absolutely didn’t know the in’s and out’s of the grocery business.”
Bob Bauer did. He had a 30-year, award-winning career with Albertsons.
He liked Cole’s idea for a gourmet and specialty foods store. The two shook hands, developed a business plan and went looking for startup funding.
“We were sitting in front of the bank officer,” Cole said. “When he looked at our plan he said, ‘You know, if either one of you had come in, I wouldn’t have given it to you.’” “The two of you can,” he said.
Cole said he doesn’t remember whether he or Bauer made the leap from “two can” to “Toucan,” but the name stuck. Cole developed the colorful Toucan logo, and the duo opened their grocery in the former Furrs Supermarket, which had sat vacant several years.
Unlike Furrs, Toucan opened with a full liquor license.
“Today it offers more than 650 wines and varietals from three for $12 to a $180 Bordeaux from France,” Cole said. “We like to sample the wines, write reviews and we invite people to write their reviews. When they come in, we like to help them pick a wine that will work with the meal they are serving.”
The store taps into the resources of more than 200 distributors, many of them small and all with unique products, Cole said. Through its network, Toucan staff is able to special order to meet customers’ grocery requests.
Twice a year, staff attend trade shows.
“We just got back from Chicago two weeks ago,” Cole said. “We’re constantly bringing in new ideas, new products. At the shows we usually go in with a list of what we’re looking for. We’re willing to try anything. If we don’t like it, we won’t bring it back.”
As the business has evolved, so have the roles of the partners.
“He’s tagged with running the store,” Cole said of Bauer. “I’m tagged with the finances. And I get to find some of the wines.”
Cole and Bauer later were joined in 2011 by Bauer’s son, Rob, who today is store director. Prior to returning to Las Cruces, Rob Bauer was with Albertsons in Phoenix for 11 years, including more than three years as a store director. Alta LeCompte can be reached at 680-1840 or alta@ lascrucesbulletin. com.