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Posted on Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Grocery stores gear up for Thanksgiving eve chaos: 'This is like our Rose Bowl'

By Ben Freed


Dianne Guzek inspects a turkey as she and her son Evan, 9, both of Ann Arbor, grocery shop the day before Thanksgiving at Busch's Fresh Food Market on Wednesday.

Melanie Maxwell |

For Busch’s Fresh Food Market store manager JD Hennigan, the excitement in the air at his South Main Street store is palpable. This is the day he waits for all year.

The big-box retailers may have long ago laid claim to Black Friday (and are trying to encroach on Thursday), but the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is his domain.

“If you’re in the grocery business, this is what you get passionate about,” he said Wednesday morning.

“If you’re a NASCAR fan, this is our big race, if you’re a Michigan football fan, this is like our Rose Bowl.”

Hennigan said this is his store’s biggest sales week of the year, and the number one day is Wednesday.

“Even with this week being our biggest, 60 percent of our sales this week will come just on Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said.

Director of marketing for the Whole Foods Market on Eisenhower Parkway Susan Bellinson said the day was equally important for her store.

“This is absolutely our business day of the entire year,” she said.

“We see a lot of action especially in the meat, baking, and prepared foods departments.”


Busch's deli associate Elizabeth VanSipe unloads prepared side dishes in preparation for pick-up orders for Thanksgiving.

Melanie Maxwell |

The prepared foods market has been an increasingly large part of the sales equation for both grocery stores. Both reported a steady growth trend in the pre-cooked meals as people turned towards the stores to do some of the kitchen grunt-work for the holiday.

“We’ve already had orders for about 40 more meals this year than last, and last year was also about a 40 meal increase from the year before,” Hennigan said.

“This is something that we’ve seen trending upwards for at least the last five years or so. The ovens have been running all day, and I even had three people working overnight last night, two cooking and one doing the prep work.”

Even with all of the prepared food sales, Hennigan said 20 percent of his sales during Thanksgiving week are in the produce section, especially green beans, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and squash.

“But of course the centerpiece to many people’s Thanksgiving meal is the turkey, and we sell a lot of turkey,” he said.

How much turkey exactly? Last year during the holiday season Busch’s stores sold a total of 201,678 pounds of turkey. Hennigan said an average turkey weighs about 14 pounds, giving an estimated 2011 total of 14,406 turkeys.

Smaller local food retailers also have seen business boom on the Super Bowl of grocery shopping. Great Harvest Bread Company, located in the same shopping center as Busch’s sees major growth at holiday time.

“We double our normal sales on Tuesday, and then triple them on Wednesday,” owner Julia Messick said.

“We had the bakers come in at 1:30 a.m. last night instead of 3:30 to get an extra couple of hours baking in. We’re also bringing in extra help today to help bag. We baked 1,000 rolls last night.”

Hennigan said the busiest time of day will be between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. as shoppers get out of school and work to do last minute shopping.

“We will have every aisle open, a bagger on every aisle, all of our ‘U-Scan’ stations and it’s still going to be crowded,” he said.

With all of the shoppers and all of the preparation, it is still important to try to guess just right how much people will by. Going too far over or too far under when ordering can be even more dangerous around the holidays.

“Ten years ago as a manager I ran out of cranberry sauce on Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving. I couldn’t get to the phone fast enough to try to get more because there were so many people yelling and trying to ask me about it,” he said. “I learned my lesson that day.”

By the same token, however, going too far over on ordering amounts can leave a store with a lot of food and no one to buy it.

“The flip-side of the week is that on the weekend when all of the big box stores are going crazy, we really slow down,” Hennigan said.

“People don’t really buy much food the day after Thanksgiving, most of them are eating leftovers.”

Hennigan, Bellinson, and Messick will be able to relax and eat their own leftovers eventually, but Wednesday it’s full speed ahead.

Store Hours:


Busch’s: Open until 11 p.m.

Whole Foods: Open until 11 p.m.

Great Harvest Bread Company: Open until 6 p.m.


Busch’s: 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Whole Foods: 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Great Harvest: Closed

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 4:16 a.m.

Hey Ya'll, my girls are going to visit their mother in Mississippi for Thanksgiving so I am doing my Thanksgiving the Manly way. Sloppy Joe's and French fries. Oh Yeah. Can't wait.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

brian, sounds yummy! when do we eat?


Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 1:46 a.m.

ham run.....(unsalted)butter run......MORE reddi-wip run......crescent roll run......instant mashed potato run......frozen apple pie run.......maalox run.......don't get the runs!!


Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 1:44 a.m.

I just left Busch's in Saline. They were very busy but had everything in stock. My Granddaughter & I were through the express lane in a couple minutes. Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 12:13 a.m.

Beyond the sarcastic swipe, the question still remains why, this time of year particularly, some select few retailers operating hours are considered "news" while other retailers' operating hours are deemed less news worthy?


Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 1:55 a.m.

Major retail outlet or minor. . .there are many (maybe hundreds) of businesses that do not have their operational hours "reported" as news. So is it money? Journalistic[sic] lottery?


Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 12:47 a.m.

Yep. I understand why you might interview a subset, but why list the hours of like 1/4 of the major outlets? Run out of time or something?


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

Support the Blue Law. no stores open until midnite. This is nuts to be open before then. If Obama wants me to give him a second glance then he needs to enact this law for next year. Stay home until midnite. Enjoy the holiday like Congress and Abraham Lincoln wanted us to.

Ann English

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 11:13 p.m.

Great Harvest Bread Company and Busch's are in Woodland Plaza. Shoppers at Great Harvest Bread Company can exit onto Main Street. Most of the time I exit Whole Foods onto Eisenhower. Did you have a reason to focus this article on two stores off Ann Arbor-Saline Road? I'm not one of those who ignore the Right Turn Only sign coming out of Whole Foods, but it is very inviting to turn left out of Woodland Plaza, even if the short left-turn lane must be used every time in order to wait for the far lanes to clear. Traffic signals are much further away in THAT direction.

Andy Dufresne

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 11:09 p.m.

Lazy journalism. No Hillers hours or no Kroger hours? Don't need to talk to them for the story, but a simple phone call to ask about hours should have been made. Maybe Hillers and Kroger don't buy enough advertising.


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

Turkey run.........nutmeg run(whole, not that ground stuff).....stuffing bread run.....egg nog run.......cranberry run.......reddi-wip run.....canned pumpkin run.......bag-of-onions run......try not to get run over!


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

So. . . only three food purveyors are open today? Busch's, Whole Foods, and Great Harvest. . . I can see why they are so busy!


Thu, Nov 22, 2012 : 12:42 a.m.

Kidding aside, they had all lanes open and were rocking the people through!


Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

I was at Kroger on Carpenter earlier and there sure were a lot of people for a place that was closed.