Today's Food Center Spotlight: the Piscataquis Regional Food Center's partnership with Save-A-Lot grocery in Dover-Foxcroft.
It's a quiet morning at Save-A-Lot, with just one or two cars in the parking lot. As TMak and I head to the office, we pass by several big green plants by the hall. Scott, the regional manager, is wearing a red Patriot's hat and a dark blue Save-A-Lot vest. From Scott's office you can hear a little of the hustle and bustle in the store, mixed in with the noise of an industrial exhaust fan which sways the suspended industrial light above our heads. Scott ushers us in.
We wanted to meet Scott this morning to hear about his observations on customer feedback with Spice Drive 3.0, and, what motivates him as a business owner, to participate in projects like the Spice Drive 3.0.
We started our chat by asking Scott about the history of Save-A-Lot and his involvement. Scott relayed that Save-A-Lot has been owned by his family since 2001. Though he grew up in Presque Isle, he moved south where he operated the Millinocket IGA, and later the IGA in Dover-Foxcroft, currently the Tractor Supply store. Moosehead Furniture previously owned the building Save-A-Lot is in now. When we commented on his extensive experience operating stores and building a community customer base, Scott replied with, "Yes, I have seen the business ebbs and flows". We'll say!
Not only has Scott been involved in several stores over the years and in various northern central Maine locations, but he also has strong ties to helping the communities he is a part of. Save-A-Lot offers food items for purchase for the Milo Ecumenical Food Cupboard weekly, the Dover Foxcroft Area Food Cupboard every other week and the Partnership Food Pantry in Greenville every couple of months. "So, the Spice Drive just ties in to that," Scott shared. When asked about his motivation as a business owner partnering with the Spice Drive and the Food Cupboards he relayed that it was mutual; "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." And from what Scott shared with us, the benefit goes beyond just being a store- it's also about relationships. Save-A-Lot as a store offers more than just products. Scott tells each of his cashiers, "It's important to have a positive interaction with the customers. We see a lot of the same faces."
When we asked Scott about customer feedback on the Spice Drive, he referred back to the customer service his cashiers offer, saying that the responses he gets from them is that it really is a positive experience. Sometimes, "I'll go home and come in to work the next day and the cashiers will have raised 3/4 of the donations needed!" Which, he mentions is in part due to the "easy donation". "Items that are right around $1 aren't a problem. But when you get to around $1.50 it can be a little bit of a struggle."
Scott smiled big when he shared a little story on how the vinegar donation went last year. Vinegar was an item that was a little over the $1 price range. But then, Scott said he got a call from a woman, who wasn't local year-round, asking if she could buy vinegar for the food cupboard. "I said, yes, okay!" The woman who wished to remain anonymous ended up purchasing 90! She said she "just wanted to help out, to pay it forward."
And despite relaying that there are struggles small businesses are facing that make for a tight budget, Scott's demeanor and customer base knowledge seem to suggest persistence and continuity with community ties.
The team at the Piscataquis Regional Food Center is certainly appreciative of the connection with Save-A-Lot and the relationships with local businesses that we have been able to build. This kind of project and service is possible with these kinds of ties.
Head on over for yourself to check out the great deals Save-A-Lot offers and if you're able, purchase a container of dried basil for April's Spice of the Month. You'll be sure to be met with some great cashiers and a great regional manager.