The food press has long doted on mobile produce markets, which wheel their wares into neighborhoods identified as food deserts, where fresh fruits and vegetables aren't readily available. But a quartet of Bainbridge Graduate Institute students discovered those trucks and buses weren't meeting the real needs of the eaters they purported to serve.
"The communities couldn't depend on them," says Carrie Ferrence, alluding to the mobile vendors' fluctuating schedules. "If it's not there when you need food, it's not creating access."
Ferrence and her partners also learned that mobile operations were overemphasizing produce at the expense of staples. So when they launched Stockbox--described as a "miniature grocer tucked inside a reclaimed shipping container"--they stocked their shelves with rice, pasta, beans, and dish soap.
Stockbox plans to open its first permanent store early next year, but is now running a prototype in a converted security trailer in a Delridge apartment-building parking lot at the corner of 24th and Holden. The cramped store is adorable: It's essentially a corner store without all the extra stuff. Stockbox doesn't sell tobacco, alcohol, or lottery tickets, but--in response to customer requests--the store will soon be adding skim milk, ginger ale, cottage cheese, and Raisin Bran to its inventory.
"People are pretty shocked when they see a grocery store in the parking lot, but when they get in there, they're like 'Oh my God,' " Ferrence says of the 10-day old shop. "They're blown away by the inventory, blown away by the prices."
Ferrence and Jacqueline Gjurgevich opted to locate the prototype in Delridge because the neighborhood's residents had expressed so much interest in securing a grocery store. The pair spent months scouting locations before settling on the current parking spot. "It doesn't meet a lot of our retail goals, but they were so open to us," Ferrence says.
The project was partially funded by a $15,000 Kickstarter campaign.
"Ultimately, we want to place these in the whole community," Ferrence says, touting the low long-term costs associated with the concept.
Ferrence and Gjurgevich ultimately hope to hire workers from the neighborhood; they're now the only staffers.
"It's been all-consuming, but in a great way," Gjurgevich says.