To most people, shopping at a community grocery store means ticking off a weekly list of veggies, breads, seafood and snacks at a convenient nearby store. But South Whidbey takes the term more literally with The Goose Community Grocer, a nonprofit grocery store in Bayview pouring its profits into funding local needs.
The Goose is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a shindig on Sept. 7 to thank the community for supporting its venture. In the same spirit of giving that sustains The Goose year-round, the event features free hamburgers, hot dogs, side dishes, cake and ice cream to enjoy along with games, raffles, prizes and gypsy jazz tunes from the Hot Club of Troy.
Sandra Whiting, Executive Director of Goosefoot, the nonprofit organization behind The Goose grocery store, explains how they happened to fall into the business of selling edibles and end up donating more than $877,000 in community grants to date.
“Due to a local philanthropist, Goosefoot owned the shopping center in which a Red Apple store opted not to renew their lease during the 2008 recession and financial crisis,” Whiting said. “We couldn’t find anyone else to come in, and with 20,000 square feet, it would have killed the strip mall, so Goosefoot decided we’d just have to run a grocery store ourselves.”
But as a nonprofit with no knowledge of how to be a retail grocer, Goosefoot partnered with the family-owned Myers Group in Clinton, which runs several small independent grocery outlets in the Northwest. It just so happens that the current CEO of Myers Group, Tyler Myers, once bagged groceries in the very location of what is now The Goose.
It was a bare-bones operation at first, with aging equipment, a concrete floor and a shoestring budget. It took five years for the store to become profitable, but since 2014, The Goose has realized its dream of pouring its own profits into other nonprofits that benefit the community in substantial ways.
One example of how grocery dollars end up planting deep roots in South Whidbey is the launch of the school farm and garden program. The Goose raised money with matching grants for three years to establish a school farm in which children plant, nurture and harvest their own food from seed to table. For the past two years, Goose has continued funding the program, which has expanded to the high school as well, to the tune of $50,000 per year.
“Kids are learning from an early age. I expect to see a lot less overweight kids with diabetes; that’s part of the plan,” Whiting said. “We actually get kids coming into the store saying ‘I need some kale.’”
Profits from The Goose have supported dozens of projects and allowed the organization to dole out community grants of at least $247,000 to 26 local nonprofits serving South Whidbey – and that’s in 2019 alone. Projects range from supporting Friends of Friends, which helps pay medical bills for those facing health-care dilemmas, to simpler things such as supporting soccer teams or Little League. The group’s reach is wide, encompassing not only community needs but also growing local businesses, connecting neighbors and preserving great places on South Whidbey.
In-store programs funded by shoppers help raise money in small increments for large impact. Harrison Casteel, manager of The Goose Grocer, explains how the “Gallons of Good Cheer” program allows any shopper to purchase a gallon of milk at a fair price to benefit the Good Cheer food bank.
“We keep a tally of it all and then Good Cheer can come and grab what they need at any time. We store the milk here for them, so it’s always fresh and ready to go,” Casteel said.
Marion Myszkowski, director of programs for the Goosefoot Community Program, recently announced the brand-new “Round Up for Charity” program, which starts in October. Twelve charities per year will benefit, one per month, from grocery customers “rounding up” to the nearest dollar when paying for their own purchases.
“For example,” Myszkowski said, “if your bill is $29.15, you can round up to $30, with 85 cents going to the charity. Or you can round up an additional $5 or any other amount, which will all go to the charity featured that month.”
The first organization slated for funding from “Round Up for Charity” is the Readiness to Learn Foundation, which partners with schools, families and communities to help every child reach his or her full potential, regardless of circumstances.
The anniversary event takes place in front of The Goose grocery store at Bayview Center on Highway 525. The fun on Saturday Sept. 7 goes from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and everyone is welcome to attend.