Pre-Thanksgiving Edition 11/16/2021

NEW NORMAL
Wed – Fri 12pm – 7pm
Sat & Sun 8am – 5pm
Mon & Tues -CLOSED-

 

THANKSGIVING WEEK
Nov 22-28
Tues & Weds 10am – 7pm
Thursday -CLOSED-
Friday 12pm – 7pm
Sat & Sun 8am – 5pm

Quick things:

  • Want to receive this newsletter via email? Sign up here.
  • A very limited number of turkeys remain. Click here for the latest turkey availability info.
  • We are deep in Thanksgiving prep. Read on for some deets.
  • We will not be accepting online orders the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Want to see what produce and kitchen items we have without scrolling through the online store?  Click here to view our current(ish) availability and when we expect various deliveries to arrive. (Updated mostly daily a few times a week; no guarantees it’s perfect.)
  • Masks are encouraged and appreciated.

 

Hi friends!

I’d had fantasies that these new hours of ours — especially the Tuesdays closed thing — would mean I could carve out the time to make the newsletter a weekly thing again. So far, not so much. At this point I’m working pretty much just as many hours as before the schedule change — which I guess makes it a really good thing that we made the schedule change, cuz it’s pretty much all I’ve got.

I’ve had a few people ask me if the business is in trouble, and I think they’ve meant financially, so I want to address that — the business is not in trouble financially. I am, I’ll confess, usually lagging weeks or months behind on detailed bookkeeping, but I keep a close eye on the bank balance and what we owe folks because it is very important to me that we never get into a position where we can’t pay for goodies we’ve brought in or pay our staff for hours they’ve worked. Aside from some stretches while we were waiting for sizeable grant reimbursements, we’ve never come close to that being an issue, and I probably can’t overstate the extent to which it’s a priority for me that we will never get to that point.

Is that at odds with my concern over whether or not increased wages are sustainable? I don’t think so — if we increase wages by 10% and wages are 25-30% of our total costs, that means we need to increase sales by 2.5-3% on average to cover that cost (assuming we’re breaking even at the point when we raise wages, which, detailed bookkeeping aside, is approximately where we are now that both the grant funding and major opening expenditures are behind us). That might seem like a small percentage, but it’s important to note that we’re coming off a boom time for the grocery industry as a whole, and it’s hard to say how that’s going to play out for us. A quick search tells me that year over year same store sales for grocery stores before the pandemic tended to be between -.5% and +1.5%, while during the pandemic they jumped to more like +15%. That says to me that our current normal may still be feeling some positive-for-us effects of the pandemic, and that we shouldn’t, for planning purposes, be counting on outsized growth numbers in the future even if we seem to be in a growth period right now. Again, I’m pretty committed to actually paying folks what I’ve agreed to pay them, so I’m also pretty committed to only committing to wages I know we can cover.

On the other hand, with two weeks of reduced hours under our belts we’ve seen essentially no decrease in revenue, so that bodes really well for our ability to 1) survive, and 2) pay remaining staff well. Again, too soon to have a ton of confidence in this, but I think that with the condensed hours we’re basically able to do a higher volume of sales per staff hour, which in turn means we can afford a higher wage per staff hour.

And on the other other hand, there’s only so much any one person can do, no matter how skilled they are, and we’ve still got an, on average, a pretty green staff, so the trickiest piece right now is my time, and, to a lesser extent, Dusty’s. Right now I’m spending a lot of time “on the floor” and working in the day-to-day retail operations, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for that detailed bookkeeping or replying to emails or keeping the website inventory up-to-date or writing this newsletter. Our team is doing a great job, and the new hours means it’s very do-able to staff the store with one or two people fewer than we could previously — but I’m still feeling stretched pretty thin. If there’s any extent to which we’re in trouble, it’s in my energy and my potential for burn out. I’m hoping that by being cognizant of that and gentle with myself, we can get folks onboarded and trained before it means we’re actually in trouble from a personal physical or emotional standpoint. Also, our kitty just came in and hopped into my lap (I’m at home! no cats at the store!), and that does a lot for my emotional resilience.

Our 2018 turkey. We believe in spatchcocking.

BUT I’M SUPPOSED TO BE TALKING ABOUT THANKSGIVING. THANKSGIVING TALK STARTS HERE. (In case you didn’t want to read all that other stuff…)

  • For those of you who have pre-ordered turkeys, I do not yet have an exact time they’ll be available next Tuesday, but I’ll be sending out an email later this week with some deets.
  • If you haven’t pre-ordered a turkey and still want to, visit this page ASAP for the current status.
  • New normal hours this week.
  • We will be open the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.
  • We will open at 10am the Tuesday and Wednesday of Thanksgiving week.
  • We will be closed on Thanksgiving day. New normal hours resume on Friday and through the weekend.
  • Our kitchen is going to be making things — many of which you’ve seen trial runs or even regular runs for — collard greens, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and maybe more. We’ll be packing them in larger-than-normal containers (we think), but we don’t have any idea what demand will be for those things, and only a rough idea of what we have the capacity to make. We’re recommending that you keep these in mind as possible options but don’t base your whole plan on them. We also expect that we’ll have all of the constituent parts to make these things yourself. (Plain Jane, we’ve found, makes a mean stuffing.) I believe the first of these things will be hitting the shelves over the weekend (the weekend before T-day, that is).
  • CRANBERRIES are here, but they aren’t local. They’re from Domingo Fernandes of Fresh Meadows Farm in Massachusetts. If you haven’t already, check out this profile of the farm and farmer.
  • There are some weirdnesses. Like, the folks I ordered sage from…..lost it? Not, like, to the weather, but they physically lost it at some point today. One can only hope it wound up with another customer and will make its way to bellies one way or another. Anyway — I don’t know yet what other weirdnesses will pop up, but I feel certain they will. I recommend doing your shopping with us early and often and being patient and gentle with us. And maybe, since I get the impression that retailers everywhere are having weirdnesses, plan on a little more flexibility than you might typically for Thanksgiving? (I am trying to find an alternative source for sage.)

 

That’s all from me for now. I think Dusty and I are going to find a cozy neighborhood joint for a quick dinner, go to bed early, and wake up ready to tackle the pre-T-Day craziness and weirdnesses head on.

Also, we’re getting 800 lbs of sweet potatoes tomorrow. After the bin of watermelons this summer, I just can’t stop. Seeing a giant bin sitting in the middle of the store makes me really happy. It’s the (not so) little things. 😍

 

J

P.S. A couple of weeks ago former Harrisburg-er Mary Wilson interviewed me for Slate’s “What Next” podcast — the interview was part of yesterday’s episode, which you can find here: https://slate.com/podcasts/what-next/2021/11/the-great-resignation