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Grocery Outlet set to open Jan. 26
Norm and Tammy Mack know the grocery business.
For 30 years, Norm worked at markets while his wife, Tammy, put in more than two decades in the industry herself.
In fact, they met on the job five years ago at Everson Market in Everson, a small town about a 30 minute drive from Bellingham.
It should come as no surprise the couple, whom recently moved to Maple Valley, will own and operate the new Grocery Outlet in the Four Corner Square north addition.
In fact, Tammy said, when they started dating in 2008 Norm asked her if she’d be interested in opening a Grocery Outlet with him at some point. She agreed.
After all the years working in the business, Norm said, it seemed like the right move.
“We were always working for somebody else,” he said. “We wanted to do it for ourselves.”
Norm knew managers he had worked with who went on to Grocery Outlet. He kept in touch with those former co-workers to get a sense of what it would be like. When the time was right, he said, he called one of those guys up to get connected with the company.
“He gave us contact information and we were on our way,” Norm said. “That was in April, I think, and by May we were already approved.”
In mid-April the Macks went through lengthy interviews in Berkeley, Calif., where the chain’s headquarters are located. Grocery Outlet has more than 185 stores primarily in western states including Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada.
Before the in-person interviews, they went through two hour-long phone interviews as well as a battery of personality tests.
Once all that was completed Norm and Tammy knew things went well in the final interviews.
“They say you know within a week and a half of interviews (if approved),” Tammy said. “They told us on the way to the airport that we were in.”
Norm and Tammy were engaged at that point but were waiting to figure out how everything would work out with Grocery Outlet.
Once they knew they got the store in Maple Valley, the third one the couple had applied for, Tammy picked a date for the wedding by the time they got to the airport. The couple wed in August.
The Macks knew they could end up anywhere on the West Coast.
“We gave them carte blanche and told them we’d go anywhere,” Norm said. “But, we got lucky to get this one.”
Norm said Grocery Outlet, which is known for offering products for as much as half off retail pricing, is experiencing a period of growth as a company and its development team is working hard to open stores in new markets as quickly as possible. It makes sense to open in Maple Valley and there were residents who wanted it here.
“We had a number of requests from local residents to come to the area and we saw the need for a high quality discount market there,” said Melissa Porter, vice president of marketing, Grocery Outlet, Inc. “We match up culturally with communities that are family oriented and Maple Valley is one of the top communities for families in the country.”
For the Macks, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
“We want to offer the people in Maple Valley the convenience of saving money on groceries,” Norm said. “The niche that I think we fill is value. We understand that our customers shop other outlets. What we hope they do is shop us first, save money, then get the items that they need.”
Typically Grocery Outlet stores offer product overruns, items that have been moved off the shelves elsewhere due to a change in packaging, among other things that allow independent operators to sell them at a lower price. In addition, there will be fresh produce, dairy and meat available.
“Grocery Outlet is a treasure hunt,” Tammy said. “I shop every aisle because it changes every week.”
Before they applied for a store, the Macks had to come up with a portion of the financing as well as develop a business plan, though Norm said there is a significant amount of support from the company as progress is made toward opening the store.
Once it’s open, the Macks, who the company calls Aspiring Operators in Training, will be in charge. They deal directly with vendors and have managed a number of aspects of setting up the store. In addition, they’ve hired more than 30 employees, including Tammy’s daughter Racheal, who is 26, and Norm’s 24-year-old son Bryant. Both of their children have retail experience and will serve as managers.
“It’s nice coming in with two people we can trust already,” Tammy said.
The store’s square footage totals out at 18,200 square feet. Trucks began arriving with products Monday and will continue until the place is set up Jan. 23 with a grand opening set for Saturday, Jan. 26.
It is set up to flow, so there are places where certain products go, Norm said, but there’s significant flexibility in how things are set up due to the fluidity of the product offerings which change regularly.
In two years, Norm said, he and his wife think the store will be running well enough they can take their honeymoon.
For now, though, the couple is excited about the prospect of running their new business and being a part of their new home.
To start with, they connected with the Maple Valley Food Bank and have committed to support it. There will be volunteers from the food bank at the grand opening. The Macks will donate $1,000 worth of food to MVFB Jan. 26. They’ve also connected with the Tahoma School District with an eye toward a partnership.
“We wanted to come to a small community,” Norm said. “We’re from a small community. We wanted to go somewhere we could make a difference.”