Many of you may not know that on top of maintaining my writing and this bookstore, I have been employed with Natural Grocers for the last year and a half. I applied to be a low level member of the ‘Good4UCrew,’ which is to say that I was happily, whatever they needed me to be: a grunt, if you will, so that I might get out of my living room and socialize once again; that worked for me, aside from the expected annoyances of interacting with trouble and elitist customers at the registers it was, essentially, exactly what I was looking for. However, because I quickly became an invaluable member of the staff, the community, the county, the state, the country, and, well, the world, really I am now the Receiving Manager at said grocery store—I was concerned, at first, that the time would eat into my work and my writing but I was able to gradually reevaluate how I manage my time and, for the most part, it’s been working quite nicely. And, with that said, it is important to acknowledge that the following views and opinions expressed are mine and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the company, Natural Grocers.
The point that I’m getting at is that Natural Grocers is an incredible company.
And, just to get this little bit out of the way, no they aren’t perfect, they don’t do everything right (because no company, for whatever reason, can seem to manage that), I do think that at the foundation of their problems is that they still try to run it like a mom&pop and it’s just not anymore, and finding the middle ground can be tricky when you’re trying to establish trust, especially with your store managers, allowing them to run the store that they need to run, and with your department managers knowing their department, and when there are too many people involved in some decisions and not enough in others—or maybe, at times, just having the right people involved.
Anywho, as far as retail corporations go it is the best that I’ve worked for; and I’ve worked for a few including, but not limited to: Starbucks, Hastings Entertainment, Borders Books, and Barnes & Noble’s; the difference is that Natural Grocers genuinely does care about it’s employees and the communities they represent (Although Starbucks is known for this, because yes, on paper they appear to be an incredible company, the practical management of-, does not translate well to the individual branch).
I may have started shopping at Natural Grocers in Salt Lake City many years ago, I honestly can’t remember; I do, on the other hand, remember shopping at the Natural Grocers in Santa Fe, New Mexico and it was there that I really developed a certain fealty, as a customer. When I heard they were opening a store in a neighboring town, Fredericksburg, TX (while living, now in the Texas Hill Country), and were in the middle of the hiring process, exactly when I was leaning towards taking a more social job, I took it as a bit of a sign.
I accepted the job and that loyalty rapidly developed, for a lot of reasons: the thing is-is that I have worked retail: corporate and independent, I have run and owned businesses, and I really have never seen anything like Natural Grocers. It's truly remarkable. 100% of our produce is organic. The store is riddled with organic and Non-GMO products, the health alternatives are unbelievable. Each store keeps a Nutritional Health Coach on staff (with the exception of ours for the time being), to help you with your health and diet needs for FREE, we hold free classes of all kinds, the company maintains standards of products and ingredients that MUST be met or we don't carry the product. The company also maintains a standard of, 'World Class Customer Service' and one of the ways that translates is by acknowledging every customer that comes within five feet of you which, in the grocery industry, is fairly unheard of.
On top of that not only am I working for one of the best grocers in the business, I got lucky and am working for one of the best management teams that I have ever seen, anywhere corporate or not; the pair, our Store and Asst. Store manager, work off of one another's strengths and weaknesses and their differing management styles help to build a unique and enjoyable work environment. Our store morale is inexplicable, considering, especially, that our dynamic couldn't be greater. I mean, our Store and Asst. Store manager went out the other day to buy Everclear, along with 1 or 2 other ingredients, and they handmade a hand sanitizer for the employees so that we can better assist our customers, per the companies request. I don’t know, that may seem like small potatoes—of which we have plenty, now—but that’s a pretty remarkable effort, and that’s just one small thing. And, I firmly believe we owe a great deal of our success as a store to our Management team, Andrea and Emily.
...another thing that I cannot stop thinking about, as an example of how Natural Grocers cares and I mean, they genuinely care: there are somewhere around 160 stores nationwide, I sent an email to the Executive Vice-President of Natural Grocers and received a personal response back within 12 hours, I mean that’s systematically unheard of. It doesn’t happen. And, I think there a number of employees of Natural Grocers that might take that for granted, I think there are a lot of people that might take that for granted.
These are trying times, and I'm not writing this as a tribute, only to the company in general but also to Natural Grocers' response to the Coronavirus pandemic. I think, it’s important to create a baseline, so it is important to acknowledge that this company has been phenomenal to it’s employees and it’s communities well before ‘The Spread,’ of Covid-19, and now the action that the company has taken is just as unprecedented as the virus itself. I know that a lot of grocers are doing whatever they can for their communities and their employees but, I mean, since this virus started I have received, first: a 5% pay bonus which was followed, immediately by a 10% pay bonus; as well as a $1 pay raise for every hourly employee that is not contingent on the virus, that increase will remain long after the virus, and an additional $1 they gave us which is contingent, but you can’t think of that as a negative. That’s incredible!
I've heard, recently how a couple of local grocery chains are experiencing some issues with their employees and how they are relating to their customers; people have questions, their scared, their panic buying, their hoarding, while many are living their lives normally, or trying to without eggs, toilet paper, hand sanitzer, and a variety of produce options, but because many grocery employees are not used to actually speaking with customers, they are not used to acknowledging a patron within 5 feet of themselves many of these chain employees are finding it difficult to manage the stress of customer demands; Natural Grocers is well ahead of the curve, we've been asked, since day one, to acknowledge our customers and that has made this transition, for us considerably more smooth and our customers have not been as panicked or flustered.
I mentioned Natural Grocers in a past column (Bare in mind, too, the column is a little silly) not by name, but nevertheless... it is clearly a great company to both shop at and to work for. I wanted to write this in gratitude to thank Natural Grocers, and to say thank you to the Isely family! To say thank you to Andrea and Emily! And, a personal thank you to Elle, for the last couple of days, and getting through the stress :)
I believe that the communities that have been lucky enough to have a Natural Grocers during this unprecedented time are getting through it with more ease than those without, and I think that we have been able to offer our customers and our communities more during this time because we're used to offering our communities and our customers more, and I know that, personally, it was easier for me to step up and to play my role because I was doing it for a management team and a company that actively appreciates us, global pandemic or not.
I have written both music, and advice columns that covered a wide variety of topics, such as: relationships, communication, lifestyle, business, and life (coaching)