4/20: Updates From Our GM

Mike Houston, General Manager

Since every day feels like an eternity now, that means it’s been an eternity since you’ve heard from us. I wanted to provide some exciting updates about the online ordering system, and I also just like typing.  The exciting things first:

Anyone driving or walking in the area has hopefully noticed our big white tent. It will be there to provide comfort to people waiting for their pickup orders in all types of DC springtime weather.  

We’ve been able to add new products and new categories to the system. Baked goods and breads, selected supplements and body care and limited beer and wine items can now be found on the site. We’re also using supply from the bulk department to fill out of stock items like rice and flour when people allow substitutions, so I would strongly recommend doing so if you’re not too brand picky. We will continue to add to the online store and improve the ordering process as time goes on.  

We are thrilled to announce that, although the State of Maryland is still working on a system to facilitate online SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) sales, we have devised a contactless solution to allow customers to pay for their online grocery orders with their benefits at pickup. We are thrilled-plus to announce that we are partnering with Crossroads Community Food Network’s Fresh Checks program to offer financial incentives that double the value of SNAP spending on fresh fruits and vegetables through our online store. When customers pay with their SNAP benefits, they receive our produce boxes at half price! Our heartfelt thanks to Crossroads for partnering with us on this initiative and for helping food dollars go even further for our friends and neighbors who need it.  

Speaking of produce boxes, we’ve received both positive and negative feedback on them. Some cooks find it a fun challenge (I did a gumbo with mine), while others pine for a la carte selection. I certainly intend to try to add back individual produce items as we improve our efficiency and systems, so bear with us. Frankly, weighted items are very challenging through any online platform, but like everything else, we’ll figure it out.  

Out of stock levels on popular items like flour, rice, certain canned vegetables, and tofu continue to be high. Toilet paper and paper towels just return that laugh-crying emoji when we order them from distributors. But we are seeing improvements, and I expect things to get better. Checking the allow substitutions box at checkout remains the best way to receive the most you can in your order. If you are truly not picky (ie. give us ANY milk) put it in the comments section of your order. For now, we are substituting only the same product attributes with an in-stock item by another brand.  So, we will not substitute non-organic for organic, or 1% for 2%.  

Hopefully everyone is seeing the fruits of our labor in making this system work. My hope is that we can keep getting closer to what it’s like to actually shop inside the Co-op, or at least as close as this situation will allow.  I’m proud of the huge strides we’ve made, we were filling some orders next day this week! And, in case you missed it, we were recognized for our leadership during this time in a recent CNN article.

We think of all of you, our regular customers, our daily drop-ins, our constant conversational companions every time we see your names pop up on our new order screen.  We hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. We’ll be here helping to keep you fed and making the best of things. See you all under the big white tent.