The question we are most often asked when we announce a new store location is “why that community?”. So, it has been no surprise that we have been inundated with questions on why we chose First Hill, since making the announcement a few weeks ago. It’s a great question and one we’re excited to answer, because when we choose a community we don’t just look at the numbers and demographics – we hit the streets to determine if there’s an opportunity to do something different.
Like any good business, we start by looking at the need: we’re looking for communities that don’t already have a grocery store and where a grocery store may be difficult to access. We then extend our research to look at the market potential, which requires a deep dive into the demographics: who lives there, how many people live there, and what is their income level? Identifying the competition and the potential is pretty basic business research. But where our approach differs is that we go out and talk with neighbors, businesses, and organizations to get a sense of how Stockbox fits into the vision that the community holds for itself….all before we make a decision on where to go next.
This approach takes more time, but it enables us to communicate more directly with neighbors and understand the complexity of the need and the opportunity in the community. And, it helps us understand how we can design Stockbox to respond uniquely, in the type of food we stock on the shelves, the way we design our store, and the spaces we participate in the community.
This more in-depth process allowed us to reach deep when we were contacted regarding a space on First Hill, which was important because First Hill isn’t at the top of everyone’s lists when it comes to the need for improved access to food. It showed us that even though First Hill does have access to grocery stores on Capitol Hill, those stores can be tricky to access because the community is so “walk-dependent”. It showed us that the community had a lot of built-in support for a neighborhood grocery because it had had one for years. It showed us that the community is often overlooked, even though it has a wealth of resources, because it is nestled between downtown and Capitol Hill. And, it showed us that First Hill has a strong sense of its own potential to offer a unique experience to people living, working, and traveling through its borders.
So, why did we choose First Hill? We chose First Hill because it doesn’t have a grocery store. We chose First Hill because we can reach an economically diverse and dense population, which includes two Seattle Housing Authority properties. We chose First Hill because it’s got a tremendous history, great access to the arts and medicine, and is home to a few cool bars. And we chose First Hill because the community has a strong vision for where it’s headed, which includes a strong desire to have a local resource for good food.
Our on-the-ground approach will continue as we roll out our marketing campaign and prepare for the launch but more on that to come. In the meantime, we’d love to know what other questions you have about our process. And, of course, we’d love to know what other neighborhoods can see Stockbox as part of their own vision.
(That vintage photo is looking east to First Hill from downtown. Our new store will be to the right of the St James Cathedral, which is poking up into the skyline in the top-center. The photo is from the University of Washington libraries.)