One day, I decided to ask for the manager of The Market. What I got was a nice conversation with the owner instead. I didn’t expect to talk to the owner because I assumed the Natural Store was a coop. He was willing to answer all of my questions which was very helpful.
He is a pleasant man to talk to in his mid 50s. He is average height and build. He is white with gray hair. He speaks evenly and has good clear thoughts that come to mind. He seems to have a good emotional intelligence about himself. I rather enjoyed talking about his business with him.
His father started the business by traveling between Seattle and Hoquiam where he bought in one place and sold in the other. His dad started the business after WW2 and was able to grow as business picked up. He focused most of his business in Hoquiam, but then at some point rented a storefront in Aberdeen. From there he kept his business stocked with nourishing alternative foods for over 30 years.
When it was time to move on, the owners dad first handed off business to his step mom. Two years later, she sold the health shop to the owner, who has been running it for less than a year now. He maintained the business under his families ownership in tandem.
The business has been slow to change. They just started using a credit card machine 6 months ago. So, up until that point, The Marketplace dealt only in cash and checks. I can tell that their credit card machine is new because it actually reads my card. The older machines don’t accept my card.
The owner operates mostly on a traditional custom the way his father did it. His dad had a strong loyal customer base. They could developed a good relationship with each other. His dad passed away 2 years ago and left behind a lot of memories with customers, family and friends.
What brought me to talking with the owner is because, unlike, many other Bulk Food Stores, this one doesn’t accept Food Stamps. I am a little upset by the fact they don’t accept Food Stamps and had to find out why. I found out there are several reasons which led him to his decision.
I get the impression he wants to maintain a sense of tradition within the company. Maybe he doesn’t want to upset the customers with too much change. He knows how he feels about too much change occurring at once. As long as the customers stay happy, and his sales are up, change may not be necessary.
He mentioned that he is frustrated by the application process as well. There is too much work and expenses that results in too little reward. In the short term of it all this could be true. But you must consider over time how it will pay for itself many times over. He says that he had thought about that.
Maybe he knows that Food Stamps don’t have much of a future with the 2014 Farm Bill. The Food stamp program is to be cut in half. Because there is less money going into the program, there will be less money spent by the poor. Fewer businesses may apply for a business license to accept Food Stamps. Most likely, smaller businesses will forego on the efforts for Food Stamps. This will cause a change in the economics of food purchases.
80% of grocery store food contain added sugar! which is very unhealthy. To top it all off, they have terrible choices in the foods. With reduced Food Stamps, people will be drawn closer than ever to buying cheaper, more sugar-infused foods. Without support from the Nature Store, the poor will face growing obesity problems.
Why didn’t he choose to try and become a coop? He wants to maintain his ideal sense of tradition. He wants to now use what his dad taught him and prove that he can keep the business going himself. He has virtually no competitors, since no other business sells what he has. Although, not many customers may desire what he sells either.
I bet that if he changed over to a coop, he would most likely start the process of accepting Food Stamps. Usually, the coop has a way of reaching out to the community more and learning what they want. Is it necessary for him to switch to a coop though? I’m not sure.
I wonder, what if a coop was started as competition against his business? I have a feeling that a coop could drive him out of business because it could sustain lower prices for a longer period of time. More investors mean more capital and support. I think he is just lucky that no groups have formed a coop yet. Maybe that could lend to his businesses good reputation with satisfied customers.