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Thousands check out new grocery in Bayview
South Whidbey’s newest grocery store took wing on Wednesday, drawing a huge flock of curious shoppers whose cars at times filled the parking lot and beyond.
“I’m glad we got here early,” said Sally Berry of nearby Sunlight Beach. She and her partner Klaas Zuiderbaan were the first into The Goose Community Grocer when it opened at 7 a.m.
They pulled their Subaru Outback into the empty Bayview Center parking lot at 6:45. An hour later there were more than 30 vehicles out front.
By afternoon, the store’s 158 parking spaces were full, and people were parking wherever they could find a spot nearby.
By 5 p.m., the store had so many visitors, the isles were clogged with shoppers and there was a grocery cart traffic jam at the checkout stands. A few shoppers appeared tired of waiting and left their carts in a corner without checking out.
“I couldn’t sleep all night, I was so excited,” Berry said. “It isn’t often something like this happens on South Whidbey — a brand-new grocery store.”
Berry and Zuiderbaan spent an hour or so checking out The Goose, owned by the nonprofit Goosefoot and operated by the Myers Group, a local family business.
They picked up mostly odds and ends — cereal, sweetener, bread, vinegar — and Belgian endive.
“We bought a lot of vegetables and fruit,” Berry said. “They were gorgeous.”
She said it appeared that prices were comparable to other stores on the South End, and in some cases lower.
The pair spent about $50, she said, adding: “It doesn’t take much to get to $50 these days.”
Berry’s favorite part of the store was the small café seating area, the deli and the gourmet meat counter. She also liked the fresh bakery counter.
Her least favorite part was the concrete floor, which had been stripped and sealed as a cost-saving measure during the renovation of the former Red Apple store.
“That shocked me a little, because I thought it was going to be real fancy,” Berry said. “But it doesn’t hurt anything, and it’s probably easier to maintain.”
“I guess I appreciate that they didn’t spend a whole bunch on the floor,” she added upon reflection. “It saves the customers money.”
It saved about $20,000, Goosefoot executive director Chris Hurley said of the floor, adding: “We just sealed it and called it a beautiful thing.”
Store manager Larry Hooker greeted Berry and Zuiderbaan at the door.
“We’re very excited,” Hooker said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Shortly after, four women in whimsical hats shouted and waved as they headed for the entrance.
“I think there’s a little community excitement about this,” Hooker said. “We’re going to have a good time.”
Hurley said the store did about 2,000 transactions in its first 15 hours of operation, which she said translated into at least 4,000 customers.
“People didn’t come alone, and they were shopping, not just looking,” Hurley said.
“It was a great day.”
“The customers were courteous and happy, and the staff showed grace under pressure,” she added.
Goosefoot was formed in 1999 as a community organization to preserve the rural character of Bayview and enhance local commerce.
Its focus is restoration, low-impact development and community lending, and providing community gathering places, such as the Bayview Farmers Market.
Goosefoot purchased Bayview Center, then anchored by Casey’s Red Apple Market, in 2005.
The market got its start as Sebo’s Thriftway in 1974, but was purchased by the Myers Group four years later and renamed Casey’s.
In 1999, it was sold by Myers to Jim Springer, who also owns the Red Apple grocery at Ken’s Korner, and it was renamed Casey’s Red Apple.
Goosefoot bought Bayview Center in 2005, and for the past four years, Springer had been leasing the building until he consolidated his two stores at Ken’s Korner.
In 2007, Goosefoot began discussions on the concept of developing a community grocery with Tyler Myers of the Myers Group, which owns four grocery stores in the region and a number of small businesses.
The idea was to come up with a market reflecting Goosefoot’s philosophy. When the building his family once owned became available again, Myers agreed to oversee its operation.
Hurley said Goosefoot’s focus in renovating the 21,000-square-foot building was on reuse, recycling and energy efficiency.
All of the shelving, display cases and refrigeration equipment have been salvaged.
Hurley said all advertising will be electronic, to save printing costs, and there’s a digital bulletin board in the café seating area.
There are 253 items in an entire row of bulk bins, and Goosefoot is working with local farmers to bring in their goods, Hurley said. For the opening, The Goose managed to acquire two acres worth of locally grown corn on the cob.
“We’re trying to bring that local feeling,” Hurley said.
The store employs 35 full- and part-time people, all but one from the local area, Hurley said.
Berry and Zuiderbaan are thrilled that there’s a grocery again near their house. Berry has owned property a mile and a half away since 1943.
“We missed this store,” Zuiderbaan said.
“We go to the grocery store practically every other day,” Berry said.
“This sure beats going those extra miles.”
The Goose is open every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. For information, visit www.goosegrocer.com.