If you’ve followed the food news, you know that Amazon has purchased Whole Foods. And everyone and their mother are trying to figure out what this is going to mean for the grocery industry. We’re no exception, but we’re not worried, either, and here’s why: Center Stage Market offers a combination of things you will never find at Walmart, Harvey’s, Food Lion, Publix or even Whole Foods. First, we are absolutely customer-centered. Always have been, always will be, ‘cause that’s what you do for your neighbors.

When we were a food co-op, when Center Stage Market was called Picky Eaters, calls would be made monthly to everyone in the group to see what they wanted delivered on Market Day. These were the years where Kat and I learned what individual customers needed for specific dietary issues, among other things. There were folks with huge families who appreciated being able to buy things in bulk, like flour, sugar, nuts, and dried beans. There were “foodies” who wanted access to specialty items you would have had to drive to Atlanta to get or pay for shipping to have it delivered to your door. There were those who wandered in just to have a look and became regular buyers. Guess what? All this information is still in our heads!

As the customer base of Center Stage Market grows, our method of keeping track of everyone’s preferences has had to move from heads to databases, but we still know when a certain customer walks in the door, she’s going to want to know that we just got a new non-dairy yogurt in. Or a new vegan product. Or new supplements for an ongoing health issue she’s shared with our certified herbalist. This is what sets us apart from the chains. We actually learn our customers’ stories and are always armed with information to help them make the best food and supplement choices for themselves and their families.

I’m reading a lot of commentary from people reacting to the Amazon/Whole Foods merger, and I’m encouraged to read that many people would prefer to spend their dollars locally, supporting the businesses of their friends and neighbors rather than adding to the Amazon coffers. Sure, ordering your stuff and having it on your doorstep in two days is great – that’s how I got the tv tray I needed to work from home when I was recovering from surgery. But is that how I want my meat and produce to arrive? Who picks it out? How do they know how ripe I like my bananas? Are they going to send me rock-hard avocados or overripe ones? When that corner of the box is smashed in, did I get dented paper towels or a punctured bottle of kombucha? (Eww!) What are the odds the chicken packaging leaks and contaminates my produce? Am I seriously going to order a watermelon online?!

But what if your friend was going to the store and offered to pick up a few things for you. You could be very specific about which things you wanted and what could be substituted if an item wasn’t available. Guess what! Center Stage Market is that friend! Give us your grocery list and let us do your shopping for you. You can pick it up at the store, or we’ll bring it to you if you’re local. We’ll ask you how ripe you like your bananas. We’ll call and ask if it’s ok to substitute the 16 oz bottle for the 32 oz bottle. And if we don’t have it, we’ll get it, if it’s humanly possible.

That’s the first gift we offer our customers: a guide to help you find what you need to live the life you want.

Next blog, next gift.

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