The catch phrase, “Know your grocer, know your community” is very familiar to Montezuma County residents.
They have enjoyed the fresh produce, homemade baked goods, convenient deli, and well-stocked meat counter of the Dolores Food Market for the past 20 years.
And just as important, they have gotten to know amicable owner Taz Vass, a popular fixture of Dolores, who’s always quick with a comment or joke, and willing to break for insightful conversation or humorous story-swapping with customers.
“We’re a true community store,” he says. “Quality service and products are my competitive edge. I respond to customer requests and stock what they tell me they want.”
What began in 1996, has become a mainstay in Dolores – a store where pleasantly surprised tourists return to shop year after year.
“People don’t expect such a great store in such a small town. I hear that a lot,” Vass says. “That’s why I came up with the store’s registered trademark: ‘Unexpected Gourmet.’”
This year the Vass family – Taz, wife Linnea, and daughters Sarah and Clare, are enjoying the Dolores Food Market’s 20th anniversary.
With humble beginnings at a location on Central Avenue, Taz and Linnea quickly realized their combination of basic food goods, practical wares, bakery, and fresh meats and vegetables had hit a hungry market.
In 1999, they relocated to their current store on Railroad Avenue (Colorado Highway 145), a high-profile location with good parking that catches most, if not all, highway traffic at one point or another.
“Besides our loyal local customers, we get a lot of hunters, skiers, boaters, and in the past 10 years, a lot more mountain bikers,” Vass said. “I’ve been doing it for a lot of years now. It’s a pretty complicated business, like running five or six different businesses at time, so I work a lot of 12-hour days.”
The Vasses definitely know their community as well. Taz served on town board for years, started the first farmers market in front of his store, and hosts a student pumpkin-carving display every Halloween.
When not creating her legendary pies and savory grab-and-go meals, Linnea serves year after year on the Dolores School Board, and is now board president.
The Vasses credit their employees for the success of the store.
“We’re so proud of them. They are like family, and we couldn’t do it without them,” Taz said.
His store marquee boasts seasonal specials, an occasional joke, or reminder of civic duty such as “Register to Vote.” On another occasion, actual ballot language made the sign.
One April Fools Day, it read “World Famous Pot Brownies.”
It’s a busy life running a grocery store open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, but the hardworking Vasses say they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’d like to thank our customers for shopping local and for the referrals. It keeps the community thriving, and has allowed us to live here and raise a family,” Linnea said.