When Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery opens its second location in August on the corner of James Street and Ninth Avenue, some First Hill residents will be within walking distance of a grocery store for the first time since M Street Grocery closed in 2011.
Developed by Carrie Ferrence and Jacqueline Gjurgevich while they attended the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) MBA program, Stockbox has reaped national attention as an innovative way to bring fresh, healthy, affordable food choices to urban areas where previous access had been limited.
Rather than stocking dozens of brands and thousands of items like a typical supermarket, Stockbox inventory consists of the staple foods people buy most often, emphasizing local produce, meat, dairy and grab-and-go meals.
“We go where the grocery stores can’t and stock the food that convenience stores won’t,” Ferrence said in a presentation at BGI.
Originally, the founders planned on operating tiny neighborhood grocery stores out of used shipping containers and launched a prototype for a two-month stint in a Delridge parking lot in 2011 (“Out of the box” RC, Sept. 28, 2011).
But in order to address the specific needs of each neighborhood, they’ve decided to shift strategies and go with storefronts.
“People still think of us as the shipping container grocery store,” Ferrence said. “Even though that was a good starting point, our mission requires us to change.”
At 2,000 square feet, the First Hill location will be significantly larger than the first South Park location, but it is still much smaller than the average American supermarket (46,000 square feet).
Although First Hill was not a neighborhood Ferrence and Gjurgevich initially sought, they found support from the community and have been seeking input from First Hill residents in order to tailor the location to the neighborhood.
“We look at communities that have been very vocal in asking for fresh and good food inside their neighborhoods,” Ferrence said.
The First Hill location will accept food stamps and will require the hiring of an additional 10 to 15 team members, according to Ferrence. Produce will come from Marra Farm, an urban community farm in South Park, as well as Charlie’s Produce, a locally owned private company.