If shoppers at the King City Grocery Outlook look closely, they may spot the new owners, Brandon and Racheal Donnelly, darting around the store doing whatever job needs doing.
Although the Donnellys are young and have only owned the Grocery Outlook since the end of October, they have a lot of grocery experience under their belts. Brandon ran an Albertson’s for years, and Racheal worked in an Albertson’s for 16 years as “a jack of all trades.”
They also owned a distribution route for chips and pretzels that included two Grocery Outlets, “and we fell in love with the model, plus Grocery Outlet pays you for in-store training,” Brandon said.
The Donnellys got an interview at Grocery Outlet headquarters in Emeryville, Calif., and participated in a three month vetting process that was followed by more than six months of classes and training at a Milwaukie store.
The process took most of last year and ended Oct. 22. In late September the couple put together a business plan, applied for their own store and agreed to take any store in Oregon or Washington that they were offered.
They were thrilled to get the King City store, with Racheal saying, “The community welcomed us with open arms.” The couple got to work “reinvesting in everything from top to bottom,” Brandon said.
Racheal added, “We added more variety, and we put an emphasis on fresh produce and high-quality meat. I hear comments daily that our customers are impressed with our store.
“Grocery Outlet sells high-quality items at a fraction of the cost of other stores. People who haven’t been in a Grocery Outlet in five or 10 years come in and say, ‘I didn’t know you have fresh produce.’”
According to Racheal, they choose foods following the NOSH criteria that stands for Natural, Organic, Specialty and Healthy. “What people see at New Seasons, they will see here for a fraction of the cost,” she said.
The Donnellys are proud of the fact that they increased the items carried in the store by 20 percent from 4000 to 5,500. “That’s a pretty drastic increase,” Brandon said.
Racheal explained, “We tried to maximize the space, and we rearranged everything. We hear from customers that the flow makes more sense now.”
According to Racheal, “You can get everything here as long as you’re flexible. We might not have every single thing you need, but shopping here is like a treasure hunt. We like to say, shop us first, and save more.”
They invested in the store right away by purchasing new six wheelers for employees to off-load stock plus small shopping carts and kids’ carts. “The kids love them, and it’s fun to see them pushing them around,” Racheal said.
But at the heart of their philosophy is customer service, according to Brandon. “You cannot teach customer service,” he said. “You hire for personality. And we encourage our employees to give us their ideas. It’s a team approach, and it’s about creating an atmosphere where customers want to shop.”
The couple likes to lead by example and said they have been impressed with their
employees’ positive response to the changes they have implemented. And with most employees cross-trained in more than one job, they can quickly fill in for each other.
Racheal noted that “a lot of people enjoy wine so we hold wine tastings every Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. featuring 9 – 12 different labels each time. Grocery Outlet sells amazing wines, and this way people can sample them along with specialty cheeses and meats.” In addition, the store offers two big wine sales each year.
The Donnellys’ move to Tigard follows the Grocery Outlet model that emphasizes owner/operators being part of the community and living among the client base. While the Donnellys are too young to live in King City for decades, they already love living in Tigard with their three dogs and four cats but “no kids yet.”
“We are excited to be here in this store for 30 or 40 years, and I can’t wait to live on the golf course,” Brandon said. “The day I turn 55 we are moving, and we know we will be here until we retire.”
The store, which is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., is located at 15705 SW 116th Ave., King City; the phone number is 503-968-8991.