Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

Service Update – Market “Off-Season”

 

The New Year is upon us and it’s time for another update. We ended 2012 with a message that we’d be working on ways to improve our service, and that remains true. Like any new business, we’ve had successes and failures, and learned a great deal in our first few months of operation. With this comes the need to ask ourselves some important questions:

  • Is our business supporting itself?
  • What are our milestones for 2013?
  • Are we serving our mission to the best of our ability?
  • How do we measure success?

 

That last question is one that I asked myself in my last post, and the answer will continue to change in different contexts. Right now, a piece of it is simply a renewed commitment to our mission, and a creative outlook on how to serve it. Now that we are in the heart of the “off-season” here in Portland, we’ve decided that this is the time to focus on that developmental work behind the scenes. As a result, our last market of the season will be this coming Monday, January 28th. While we love market days, we also know that it’s important to be open to additional ways to honor our goals as a mission-driven business, and we know that it’s tough to come out in the winter elements for an outdoor market. We’ll be spending our rainy days working on changes that will allow us to serve our communities, partners, and friends even better. We are excited about the chance to use the knowledge we’ve gained and apply it to an even better future service!

We make an effort to use this as a forum for transparency and communication, so please don’t hesitate to contact us in the meantime with questions or comments. We always appreciate your feedback.

More updates to come as we continue our work…

Winter Schedule and Updates

 

Happy Anniversary!

Well, Happy 6-Month Anniversary, I should say. As of today, we’ve been successfully operating our full time pop-up market service for a whole half of a year, and it’s been an amazing ride. We’re so happy about the relationships we’ve formed, the things we’ve learned, and the many, many things we have yet to do. We’re also looking forward to reflecting on and analyzing this experience so we can understand our business on the deepest level, and be sure to bring you the best service possible.

Over the last six months, we’ve been listening hard to what customers tell us they really need and want, and what we continue to hear is that Meal Kits are what they find the most interesting, and the most valuable. We want them to know that we hear them, so we’re very excited to announce that we will be spending the next few months focusing on developing our Meal Kit offering more fully. We will be working on new recipes that offer more dietary options, incorporate seasonal changes, and provide a variety of serving sizes for different households. We have ideas in the works around new packaging, and even new partners that will bring a fresh and interesting spin to the Meal Kit assortment. We can’t wait to show you!

With the busy holiday season approaching and the weather turning, we think this is the perfect time to give our Meal Kits the attention they require. So, we will be consolidating our market schedule through the holidays, and spending the rest of our time working hard on Meal Kit development, as well as service improvement all around. You can still shop with us on Market Mondays for your weekly produce, groceries, and Meal Kits in November and December, and be sure to check in with us often; we will be back with a reinvigorated market schedule and a new and improved product line in the new year.

We have big ideas for the future of My Street Grocery, and as always, we remain fully committed to our mission to increase fresh food access for all. Thank you for all you do to support us, and most importantly, to support the mission to provide people with the tools they need to lead healthy, happy lives.

 

A New (and different) Customer

 

My Street Grocery has a new customer.  It’s Montgomery Park, a business complex in NW Portland.  You’re used to hearing about us visiting apartments, senior centers and other neighborhood communities, so this new stop is a bit different, in a very good way.

You may know that NW Portland has some of the best restaurants and shopping in the city.  But Montgomery Park is just far enough away from those good eats that employees can’t get there and back during their lunch hour (or half-hour).  Aside from a lone burrito stand, there are no healthy options close by.

This is where we come in.  On Mondays from 11 to 1:00 My Street Grocery is now on the scene with some fresh new choices.  We offer our exclusive snack kits that contain whole grain crackers, Tillamook cheddar cheese and fresh grapes, blueberries or cherries -  it’s a hearty and healthy option for only two dollars.  We also have containers of freshly-cut cantaloupe and watermelon and containers of fresh Oregon blueberries.  On our first visit, customers really went for our new grab and go spinach, garden and Greek salads.  In addition, our new Irish Pub salad was a popular choice (even without a pint included.)

Our new friends at Montgomery Park also loved our Meal Kits.  The idea of a quick and easy dinner without a stop at the grocery store on the way home was a real winner.

While Portland is a great city with lots of healthy food options, My Street Grocery is finding locations all over town with limited access.  We’re glad to have Montgomery Park on the schedule and it looks like they’re glad have us.

Business…for good?

 

Did you know that My Street Grocery is a social enterprise? That means we are a business that exists to address a social need, which, in our case, is access to fresh, affordable, healthy food. We created our business to address this issue, and that is why we come to work every day.

Organizing ourselves as a for-profit entity was a very deliberate decision on our part. We want to earn the money that we need to provide a service to the community (rather than ask for it), and to do so in a way that benefits our company, our customers, and our community. With an economically sustainable business model, we can streamline the decision-making process, set long-term goals, and create a lasting impact.

We’re not the only ones that believe in this approach, by the way! Social enterprise is a growing field gaining momentum around the world. Some companies show their commitment to business for good by choosing to become certified B Corporations, which means they have gone through a rigorous assessment process to ensure their business practices are responsible and transparent at every level. (Ever heard of Patagonia, or Etsy? Both certified B Corporations.)

Right here in Portland, we have some amazing resources for and examples of SE. I have great friends, colleagues, and mentors who are creating positive social change in our community through the power of business. (Visit B-Line, FMYI, and Sustainable Harvest for some inspiring examples of this kind of work.) We ourselves are proud to be graduates of the Social Innovation Incubator, which creates a space for organizations like ours to grow and thrive. Through the SII, we’ve been able to tap into a community of like-minded social entrepreneurs and innovators that are changing the face of business every day. (Learn more about them here.)

So, we hope this helps to shed a little light on the idea of business for good. We believe in it to our core, and our daily challenge to ourselves is to make our actions speak louder than our words.

For more on our structure and our philosophy on social enterprise, please visit our FAQs.

 


Dinner at Home…Save Time in the Kitchen

 

Have you seen chefs on TV cook with all the ingredients prepped and placed in little containers ready to be professionally swirled into a pan at just the right time? Have you noticed how when the chef reaches for a pan or a knife just the right one is always right at his or her fingertips? Now flash back to the last time you followed a recipe. If you’re like me, you’re sometimes bouncing from one cupboard to the next searching for ingredients or slicing and chopping in a rush to get something in the pan before it’s too late.

Well, it’s no secret that TV chefs have prep cooks running around before the show and behind the scenes making sure everything is ready when the cameras start rolling. Their job is to make sure the TV chef can prepare the food quickly and efficiently. While most of us don’t have a staff assisting with dinner prep, it’s still easy to save time at home using this technique.

Wondering how to get started? The first step is to read through the recipe from beginning to end before you even turn on the stove. Next, simply prep and measure out each ingredient as described in the recipe and set aside. Set out pans and other tools you know you’ll need. You can do this anytime during the day like when the kids are napping or when you have a few extra minutes. Now when it’s time to start dinner, you’ll feel like a real pro. Dinnertime just got a little less hectic.

Organic or not?

 

I reached for a bunch of organic bananas the other day and had a bit of sticker shock.  Wow…nearly twice the price for organic compared to conventionally grown.   Buying organic can put real stress on a family budget.  So if I can’t have it all, what organic produce provides the most benefit?  For help I revisited the Environmental Work Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen.”

The Dirty Dozen are those fruits and vegetables that put you at the highest risk for exposure to pesticides – buy these organic if you can.  The Clean Fifteen are those with low risk – buying these non-organic is probably okay.  Of course, don’t avoid all fruits and vegetables for fear of pesticides. Whether you choose conventionally grown or organic, a diet full of fruits and vegetables is best.  In other words, eat lots of fruits and vegetables however you can.

Non-organic fruits and vegetables with the highest risk of exposure to pesticides are apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines (imported), grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries (domestic), and potatoes.  This year the environmental Work Group added green beans, and kale/greens.

The Clean Fifteen are onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and mushrooms.

In most cases, other fruits and vegetables fall somewhere in between.  If you’re looking for a tie breaker, consider products grown closer to home.  Fruit that hasn’t traveled as far usually tastes best.  And very often, local farmers use organic growing methods but can’t call their produce organic because they don’t have the resources to pay for an organic certification.

Whether you choose organic or not, remember to add fresh fruits and vegetables to every meal and enjoy them for snacks in between too.

That’s Why We’re Here

 

It was a warm Wednesday morning with the promise of an even warmer day when we set out with more blueberries, cherries, raspberries, marionberries, and mangos than ever before.  Also on board was a plentiful supply of fresh vegetables, bread, milk, juice, eggs, and butter.

Our first stop was a senior community nestled at the base of Mount Tabor. We’re lucky today.  Ninety-three year old Faye Day, the star of our recent KGW news story, is among our first customers.  Faye wants a dozen and a half eggs; she must be expecting company.  A new customer wandered by for a look and happily chose two pints of fresh marionberries.  “I used to pick these in the fields when I was a kid,” she said.  “It’s a lot easier picking them this way.”

Marianne came by as well.  She’s a regular and always asks about new Meal Kits.  “That sounds wonderful,” she said when we told her about our new fresh vegetable pizza on whole wheat flatbread.  Like most, Marianne stays for a little conversation before she heads back to her apartment.  She leaves with two bags full of fresh produce, including a banana for her dog.  “He just loves bananas” she says.

It’s a pleasure to watch our customers enjoy pints of fresh berries, cartons of cool milk, containers of fresh farm eggs and more.  Most of these seniors can’t drive or manage a bus ride to the grocery store.   Many don’t have friends or family to shop for them.  That’s why we’re here.  Perhaps the best quote of the morning is from a favorite customer who says “Thank you for being here.  I just can’t get to the store anymore.” We thank her right back.

As we fire up the truck and head to our next stop, smiling faces wave goodbye.  It’s a good day.

Strawberry Fields

 

We love lingering by fields of strawberries on warm days with the sun high in the sky and the fragrance of freshly tilled earth and sweet fruit in the breeze.  The season is now, and strawberries are bursting red and delicious at farms throughout the Willamette Valley and beyond.  Consider a short drive out of the city where along winding country roads you’ll find ample opportunity to hand pick your own berries or discover a fruit stand where you can buy directly from the farmer who brought the rolling fields to life.

Once back home, it’s easy to enjoy the fresh berries over ice cream or with shortcake and fresh whipped cream.  For breakfast they’re great atop homemade waffles or pancakes or gently stirred into a bowl of Greek yogurt.  Of course fresh strawberries make a fine homemade jam to enjoy all year long or a fresh fruit smoothie to enjoy straight away.  They’re fantastic in a salad or as an appetizer served with carvings of fresh farmer’s cheese and a chilled glass of dry rosé.  Fresh strawberries are a taste of summer, where the hunt and the preparation can be as delicious as the fruit…Enjoy.

P.S.  If you’re a My Street Grocery customer, look for fresh Oregon strawberries on the truck next time we visit your street.  But come early, they go fast!

Get to Know Us

 

Starting a business is crazy.

I don’t mean it like, “that’s crazy, don’t do it,” but more like, “wow, can you believe this is happening? Crazy!” Every day is a learning process. Every moment feels like a milestone. Every customer matters, every decision is important, and every move you make is calculated. While this may sound exhausting (it is), it’s the most wonderful and fulfilling thing I could imagine doing as a career.

It’s also an introspective process. When you are your own boss, you really get to know yourself on a different level. As a manager, you have to learn the most effective ways to communicate with your employees to ensure productivity and maintain a healthy work environment. As your own manager, it’s no different, except that your employee is yourself. On some days, your employee listens to you and gets the job done, and on other days, it’s not that easy… Self-discipline, time management, and emotional intelligence are just a few of the skills that I’ve been honing on this journey. I’d also like to note that this has been and continues to be the best experience of my professional life.

Running a business that you believe in is the best thing in the world.

It’s true. At My Street Grocery, we love food, we love business, and we love our community. Lucky for us, we get to work directly with the things we love every single day. How about that?! (I mean, just look at those pictures above…) For those of you who have been following us since our Fork in the Road days — thanks for sticking around! For you newcomers who are visiting for the first time — welcome! We’re glad you’re here.

We’ve been operating full-time for about 6 weeks now, and our business is already growing. We love getting to know repeat customers: Shaun still buys Meal Kits from us every week. (Have you met Shaun yet?) Eve, one of our senior customers, makes her way outside each Wednesday to buy produce and “the freshest milk she’s ever tasted.” A father and daughter visit us every Thursday to buy a new Meal Kit that they take home to prepare together. These people also serve as our advocates in their communities. It’s so rewarding to meet a new customer who tells us that their neighbor/friend/relative/building manager told them about this great little pop-up market they visited that he or she should really check out. You just can’t buy that kind of endorsement.

Growing a business is an iterative, evolutionary process.

So, we hope you’ll keep in touch. We’ll have plenty to report as we continue to operate and grow. Visit our website to see when daily markets are happening, to learn about community events, and just to get to know us.

We’re absolutely thrilled to be able to showcase our business via this new website, thanks to the incredible talent at Big Pixel. If you’re a business of any size, but especially a start-up, hire them! You won’t be sorry. Their work is stellar, but what also stood out to us was their effective and supportive communication style. They gave us personal attention throughout our entire rebranding process, which is a big part of why we ended up with this wonderful website that suits us so well.

We look forward to keeping you updated through this blog, where you can not only hear from us, but also leave your own comments. We want to get to know you, too, after all.