When I’m not shopping at Stockbox, my local grocery store is Town and Country’s Ballard Market. I went there a few nights ago for the first time in many weeks because, I admit, there were a few items on my grocery list that I couldn’t find at Stockbox (coarse cornmeal, flax seeds, and onions, which we had run out of for just a few waking store hours). Walking into my old stomping ground, I was overcome with sentimentality. It was like going back to your hometown, where you know everyone’s face and realize how much you’ve missed them, but you also realize they’ve moved on with their lives, not even realizing you’ve been gone. As I walked the aisles glancing at my “old friends”, I understood just how strong the emotional bond with a grocery store can be, from the brands they stock, to the way the store feels, and the people who ring up your sale for years on end.
For many years, my main grocery store was actually Town and Country’s Greenwood Market, which was much closer to my home but which closed a couple years ago to make way for the new Fred Meyer. When that store closed, a piece of me died. Honestly. I still drive by that parking lot and reminisce on the good times I had there. That sounds overly dramatic (and I’m known for that) but if you think about it, a lot of important things happen at grocery stores. I have vivid memories of:
- Shopping for a special bottle of wine with my husband
- Preparing for big holiday meals
- Buying a ticket for their breast cancer awareness raffle
- Searching through the huge pile of pumpkins for the “perfect one”
The list goes on and on. Sometimes we forget to step back and appreciate all the ways that grocery stores actually impact and contribute to our lives. It’s not (all) about the food – it’s the process of shopping for the ingredients, building relationships with your favorite brands, knowing that someone can help you out in the store, and simply feeling good and excited by the process.
And this is my very long wind-up to my point: Regardless of where our customers currently shop – whether it’s in the neighborhood, whether it’s easy to get to, or whether they even like it – they have a relationship with that store…..a relationship that has been built over time and which has worn pathways in their life.
This is a difficult relationship to re-shape, even when we’re talking about communities and households that may have to go out of their way to get to a grocery store. And, it is Stockbox’s job, as a new company and a new store, to work with customers to build these new relationships, new patterns, new appreciations for brands, and new shared experiences. Even after only a few weeks, we’re starting to see some of our customers build new food and store traditions. But, we still have a long way to go.
You may have noticed some new signage that popped up over the community board. The signs cover part of Stockbox’s vision statement:
- Food: be the source for fresh food in the neighborhood
- Community: invest in the community’s success
- Experience: cultivate the destination for friends to connect
- Innovation: shift the food system and reimagine grocery for everyone
We have to work at all four parts of the vision every day in order to build meaningful relationships with all of our customers and deliver on our commitment to improve access to good food across Seattle, and eventually beyond.
We will do this by hosting food events in our store, partnering with organizations to host community events, hiring from the community, and designing our inventory to respond to your needs. However, we’ll also need your help, since relationships are always a two-way street. Let us know how we’re doing. Let us know what works and what could work better. And let us know what you need. Because this doesn’t mean a thing if until Stockbox has worked its way into your heart, and you ours.