Stockbox: Seattle’s Friendly Neighborhood Grocer

What began as a grad school assignment has blossomed into a successful small business that Seattleites are eating up… literally.

Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery went from an idea to a thriving small business thanks to Carrie Ferrence. As part of one of her classes at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Ferrence was tasked with designing a business that responded to a social need, and focused on developing a retail response to urban food access.

“We believed that investing in small business development could respond to the need for good food inside of urban communities, while providing much-needed economic and employment support,” she said.

Taking her concept out to the community and getting their feedback on what they liked and what could be improved helped rally the support from the city of Seattle, and inspired Ferrence and her team to bring their project to fruition.

“Stockbox is the new neighborhood grocery,” she said. “We place small grocery stores in urban areas to offer a local resource for fresh foods, meals and grocery staples in communities that don’t have access to good food.”

Stockbox is dedicated to offering affordable and accessible options for fresh food inside local communities from local produce suppliers and farms. Their fair pricing keeps them competitive with larger chains, while low operating costs and higher margin products help them offer fresh food at relatively affordable prices.

Interior of Stockbox's First Hill store location

What truly makes Stockbox a standout grocer has been the rapid disappearance of corner stores in many communities, resulting in a unique opportunity that Ferrence is positioning her business to help solve.

“23 million people in the U.S. now live in a food desert, which means they don’t have access to a grocery store or fresh food where they live. This grocery gap is actually growing and demonstrates both a large market opportunity and pressing social need.”

The commitment to community that drives Stockbox as a small business can also pose problems of its own.

“We are challenged by finding locations that are a good fit for us and the community. And because we’re committed to hiring from the community, it can be challenging to build a staff that represents the community.”

Nevertheless, Ferrence basks in the rewards and customer support that Stockbox’s community-conscious business model brings in.

“I love to hear customers’ reactions when they visit our store for the first time. They come in for the food but end up excited by how fresh and fun it feels inside the store. We’re not another app or technology (company)– we offer a sense of space and connection for our customers to reconnect to food.”

With two stores currently open, Stockbox is working to continue expanding its network and reach in the Seattle area and beyond, with requests to open locations across the country.

By merging the quality and selection of large chain grocers with the ambiance and civic mindedness of a local mom-and-pop shop, Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery is a small business that could become a big, national player in the urban grocery market in the years to come.

Small Business Profile