Summit County grocery delivery services are on the rise
Local grocery gurus
Pricing: Cost of order (minimum of $100), plus $35 service fee
Contact: Online email form
Summit Store 2 Door
Pricing: Cost of order (no minimum), plus $35 service fee and 20-percent order charge. $50 flat for orders placed directly through Whole Foods.
When Dean Newton first heard that the Austrian ski team was his newest client, the founder of Summit Store 2 Door grocery delivery in Dillon was giddy.
And then he was nervous.
As owner of the 4-month-old service, Newton never expected to draw the attention of a national ski team on the eve of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Yet he had the right connections: The ski team’s chef wanted nothing but the finest, healthiest ingredients for his athletes, and Whole Foods in Frisco was a natural choice. All the grocery store needed was a local service to make the trek between Frisco and Beaver Creek, where the ski team is staying during the two-week competition.
Newton and his wife, co-founder Michelle, made the first delivery early on Thursday morning. When they arrived at The Charter, the hotel where the team is staying, they met the tired, jet-lagged Austrians. The team had just flown in the night before, and after a quick breakfast with the just-arrived groceries, the athletes were headed straight to the course for training runs.
Still, the Newtons were starstruck.
“It was awesome,” Michelle Newton said about the first delivery to Beaver Creek — hopefully the first of potentially a dozen more in the next two weeks. “What else can you say? We wanted pictures and felt kind of awkward asking them for those, but it was still definitely exciting.”
But the Newtons are entrepreneurs first and ski fans second, so they kept their phones pocketed and set about unloading the groceries. The order, shuttled over Vail Pass in the back of the Newton’s personal Ford SUV, was made just for a team of world-class athletes: beef tenderloin and salmon for protein, ravioli and quinoa for carbs, gallons and gallons (or liters and liters for the Austrians) of water. All told, the team ordered five shopping carts of food, each packed to the brim with reusable Whole Foods bags.
“I told Michelle, and I wasn’t kidding, but I would’ve done today’s order for free,” Dean Newton said after driving back to Frisco. “If we did too much of that we’d be out of business, but it was worth it for today.”
Summit Store 2 Door is one of several grocery delivery services in Summit County, and like most, the founders entered the small yet in-demand market with hardly any experience.
And why not? In a resort community, grocery delivery is a promising enterprise for any budding entrepreneur: Guests need to eat, but the last thing they want to do is spend precious vacation time traipsing through a strange, unfamiliar grocery store.
Enter companies like Summit Store 2 Door and Stocked Summit, another delivery service founded and operated by two locals. Samantha Pendleton and Paula Gath took their first orders last season after using a similar service on vacation in Costa Rica.
Gath fell in love almost immediately.
“I think this is a huge market and a lot of people don’t realize this sort of thing is offered,” Gath says. “When people have been traveling for 12-plus hours, the last thing they want to do is shop. If you can get skis delivered or groceries delivered, anything delivered, it makes your vacation easier.”
Here’s how grocery delivery works: Summit Store 2 Door and Stocked Summit both use an online ordering system. The offerings vary from service to service, but the Stocked Summit “shelves” have 1,400 items, from treats like popcorn and trail mix to cases of Coors Light and ever-popular bottled water.
Once the order is placed, the founders with both services personally collect the groceries and deliver them via private cars to lodges, condo complexes, vacation homes — just about anywhere.
Most services charge a small service fee, ranging from $35 for Stocked Summit to $35 plus a 20 percent order charge for Summit Store 2 Door.
Last winter, Annette McMahon of New York came to Breckenridge for the first time in nearly a decade. It was a family trip, just her and her sisters, and the group didn’t want to bother with a rental car. As McMahon was arranging the trip, a friend told her about Stocked Summit, and she immediately thought it was a genius idea.
But the service itself was even better. When the McMahon sisters arrived, Gath had already delivered the groceries directly to their ski-in, ski-out unit. McMahon didn’t use the online ordering system and instead opted to email Gath a shopping list after browsing the virtual shelves.
“It didn’t really save us money,” said McMahon, who bought enough groceries for the entire three-day trip. “We paid a bit extra for the service, but the thing we gained out of it was having more time for ourselves instead of having to run to the grocery store. When you’re having a short vacation, it’s important for us to have quality time, not shopping time.”
As service industry vets — Summit native Pendleton is a server at Quandary Grille, while New Yorker Gath works at Michael’s Italian Restaurant — the Stocked Summit founders know that convenience and customer service can make or break any business, particularly a new, untested one. With little marketing, the service made roughly two or three deliveries per week in the first year. Holidays were busier, naturally, but word-of-mouth promotion from satisfied customers like McMahon was invaluable.
This season, Stocked Summit has seen its sales and client list quadruple.
“I’ve been spreading the word here around people who travel that way,” McMahon says. “There are a lot of people from our area who head out there for ski vacations.”
THE LOCAL’S CONNECTION
Dean Newton is a jack-of-all-trades type: He saw a need for a delivery service, particularly one built for locals, and pulled from a background in search-engine optimization and website design to create an online store.
Newton wanted to tap a market most grocery services overlook: families and seniors, the sort of residents who can’t easily collect their own groceries come wintertime. He designed the service be a true local business with ties to the community, and along with resident discounts, he recently paired with the Family and Intercultural Resource Center in Silverthorne to donate up to 10 percent of every sale.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to serve people who not only want the convenience, but can really benefit from a grocery service,” FIRC assistant director Rob Murphy says. “It seems like such a smart, logical idea for a business up here.”
And, of course, there’s always the opportunity to rub elbows with Austrian ski superstars.
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