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Small But Mighty



It’s like a food truck — minus the wheels.
And instead of dishing out overpriced burritos or slices of pizza, this hotspot is serving up affordable groceries.
Startup company Stockbox Groceries converts old shipping containers into small local markets offering underserved Seattle neighborhoods fresh fruit, vegetables and other goods at a reasonable cost. 
The company partnered with a local apartment complex to open its first location earlier this year. Although this location is temporary, Stockbox is excited about the positive response from neighborhood residents and hopes to open a permanent location in the Emerald City by Spring 2012.
“It’s about bringing food back to where communities are, and where the need is,” says Stockbox co-founder Carrie Ferrence. “I also think it speaks to a larger need, and demand, to bring business back.”
Ferrence and her colleague Jacqueline Gjurgevich began Stockbox while still in business school, when they were looking at potential solutions to food deserts. The duo started looking at mobile markets, and was impressed by their ability to get into neighborhoods that traditional brick and mortar grocery stores weren’t serving.
But Ferrence and Gjurgevich also found that while communities like the mobile markets, the stores-on-wheels were unreliable and not really convenient for people’s daily schedules. 
“You really need a store to be there when you need groceries,” Ferrence says. “So we sort of just took the wheels off of it.”
Stockbox found that the containers themselves aren’t that difficult to obtain, and the company is working with architecture firms to design the stores, making them look less like a metal container and more like a friendly corner market. The company also has been able to secure goods for the market relatively easily, selling between 300 and 500 items that their customers buy most frequently.
The trouble Stockbox has run into, according to Ferrence, is finding a permanent location that is in an area which needs such a store — and is also zoned for a shipping container supermarket.
But the company is optimistic, noting that the community at the apartment complex has been very supportive, and shocked by how much affordable fresh food is offered at the market. The new market also has generated a lot of attention on the Seattle blog scene, giving Stockbox a big boost as it aims to introduce itself to the larger Seattle community.
“We haven’t been open for very long, but it’s just interesting to see the customers’ reaction when they walk into the store,” Ferrence says. “It’s just such a different concept that it just doesn’t necessary register.”