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Innovator Spotlight: Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery

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Innovator Spotlight: Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery

source: Nutrients for All | Innovator Spotlight: Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery
Written by Tanya Moss, Posted by Charlotte Hastings on Mar 12, 2014
Stockbox First Hill Grocery“The community members are the ambassadors for everything we’re trying to do,” says Carrie Ferrence, co-founder of Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery in Seattle. Stockbox is a small company working to improve food access in the Seattle area by revitalizing the community grocery store. Carrie, whose family ran a grocery store for five generations, believes the grocery store can be a cornerstone of community and health. “When a community doesn’t have access to a grocery store, they can lose the connection to fresh food, and lose the importance of those foods in their diet,” she says. Stockbox focuses on fresh foods such as produce but also on fresh meat, dairy, and hot prepared meals.
Stockbox goes beyond simply selling fresh food, however. In addition to offering products tailored to each neighborhood, each store hosts sampling demonstrations from local suppliers, works with local community organizations to provide nutrition education, and even conducts outreach in-store by helping consumers with their purchases, one-on-one. Nutritionists will accompany customers as they do their shopping, helping them choose foods that are healthy and right for them and providing recipes and cooking tips to go with those foods. By providing education and recipes, Stockbox not only sells good food but also ensures that that food actually reaches the customers and their families.
Stockbox tries to select local suppliers who provide them with fresh produce, meat, and dairy. They feel that the diverse selection of suppliers allows them to bring in a more interesting selection of products than you would find in a traditional grocery store. Recent expansion has allowed Stockbox to source from a more diverse selection of suppliers who may have been reluctant to provide to such a small company. They have one supplier that provides most of the staples but then are able to source from diverse, local, Seattle-based companies for the rest of their products. “We think this model is important not just within the context of food systems but within the context of urban design,” Carrie says.
Although it is difficult to measure impact, Carrie tells us that customers are very happy with Stockbox. Most of their customers’ previous grocery-shopping experiences have been in convenience stores, so having such a different experience with Stockbox helps, not only with purchasing, but also with health and community engagement.
Carrie admits that Stockbox can’t do everything itself. They work closely with nonprofits and other businesses. One of the reasons they have been so successful is building relationships in the community. “Invest in relationships,” Carries advises budding food entrepreneurs. “It’s probably one of the best investments to make.”
Stockbox’s impressive expansion has meant changes and challenges for the small company. Their first store was in a small shipping container in order to get to neighborhoods where large grocery stores wouldn’t build. However, realizing the importance of all fresh food, not just fresh produce, Stockbox switched into a store setting to accommodate refrigeration and customer demand. So far, they have opened up two community grocery stores in low- and middle-income neighborhoods in the Seattle area and have plans to expand across Washington State with 1-3 more small stores in the next year.
They have been approached by cities all over the country requesting similar stores, revealing a national demand for small community grocery stores. Stockbox’s goal is to make the community grocery store relevant again and given the volume of requests they’ve received for stores, we’d say many communities across the nation are ready to join them in pursuit of that goal.

Tanya Moss is a Graduate Advocacy Fellow at the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and is pursuing her MPH at UC Berkeley. Before moving the west coast, Tanya spent time in Boston working for a community health center and conducting research on school lunch programs for the Harvard School of Public Health. She is a 2009 graduate of Wesleyan University.

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