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Ghetto Grocer in the Meadow
Tips on Managing Essential Resources
“James - I caught your latest Third Rail pod and loved the grocery-insider information. I know some groups of guys who're living in the rural West who could use this kind of information in setting up grocery operations to serve our small-town communities. Some of our groups are trying to live Amish-Mormon style in terms of having their own infrastructure that's not tied to Big Nanny's apron-strings. The "3 stores or less" operations you were describing on Third Rail are just what we've been kicking around. A few of us know guys in the biz that operate on that scale already so we won't all be total newbies on the subject.
“If you're game, how could we get more information on the practical realities to share with Our Guys? If you want to do a conversation, I can set something up with phone or podcast, we can do an email chain Q&A, or anything you or Lynn care to suggest for an alternative. I can hit the guys up to throw you some book sales, cash & creature comforts for the effort.
Loved the whole pod. Hope the Shitsburg-Lagos went smoothly. Send more manuscripts for proofing when you can.
-C

C, the traditional method was to form a buyers co-op. But now these things cost big money to join and they have all kinds of oversight compliance attached. I would suggest finding a legal eagle who will help set-up whatever is legal for your area as a grocery co-op.
Talk to some Amish and trade some information about surviving and thriving in the shadows of your mutual enemy. They are currently under attack and lack perspective for planning defense and are still dependent on judicial goodwill.
For instance, Mister Schwartz told me that Hmong and Jamaican folk brought their animals to the Amish slaughterhouse. One can ally with other traditional people, this being the most ancient tribal survival method, one of confederacy and clutch scaling-up of certain operations, like going down the Long-war-way with the Mohawks to slaughter Cherokee…
You need a canning house, cheese house, slaughterhouse, etc. This might all be illegal depending on where you are. I don’t know anything about this stuff. I was just a buyer in a city in a business where only myself and two other grocers practiced creative buying for 5 stores in an area that supports 150.
I would love to see some group develop a free association wholesale network, pulling resources in some place where it is allowed. For instance, in a hellscape like Maryland, it is plainly against the many laws to try and grow a retail business beyond a neighborhood.
I have some basic tips:
#1: Restaurant supply houses are in crisis and looking to diversify. So, hit them up for some deals or even delivery service.
#2: Produce buyers that serve the supply houses marked above will have glut periods as lockdowns roll like third world blackouts across the sales-scape.
#3: Consider dealing in cloth rather than paper as a household good.
#4: General Mills has overrun contracts with select supply houses. The one in the east I dealt with was a restaurant house that also served independent grocers on the side. Find out who has this contract in your region.
#5: Find out where the regional cannery is and buy from them. Virginia used to have numerous canneries and even a fish packing plant that the old man I worked for used to buy direct from.
#6: I met the president of Polar foods once and set up a direct account with him. Smaller canners and cannery brokers like the Polar guy, are generally interested in selling outside of the supply chain, because they are in skew wars with the big wholesalers.
#7: reach out to everyone that grows food and see what they have to offer and how they can help. The last thing I did on the management level as a grocer, setting up a store for a former competitor of mine, was to meet with this hipster chick who had a dairy farm in the area to speak about selling her ice cream.
I do not have any special store of knowledge and simply did well as a grocer for the brief time I acted as a manager because I was willing to think outside the box, piss off my staff, my owners and work with wholesalers. I had one salesmen who had a friend who owned a store in another region who would go and buy stuff I could not get for my customers and drive it a hundred miles in his car. I would ask a wholesaler something like; “I see you list Sunshine prunes. I know you get a truck in from them at some point. When you do, could you order me a pallet of applesauce?”
The point is, you just have to learn what supply chains operate in your area, who they buy from, who they sell to, and begin working them, to the point of organizing backhauls. It was always easier to get a drop shipment from Richfood in Richmond into South Baltimore, because that is where the Domino Sugar plant was, and a truck never left SOBO back to Richmond without picking up a load of sugar.
Idea: if you start buying from a cannery, maybe you can buy old canning gear from them too?
Go down to Salt Lake City and talk to the Mormons about their operation there. I think it is near Welfare Square.
I noticed when I was in Portland, that Dollar Tree, based in Chesapeake, Virginia, has reliable distribution all the way out there, including dairy and meat. Somebody set up something and that company is having an identity boost putting up signs about what a big food provider they are although they mostly sell junk. I found a fresh shipment of Tuturosso 35 ounce tomato freshly canned, shipped coast to coast in one distribution last year, in Oregon, PA and MD, for a cost about half of normal. Virginia peanuts show up there every month in Portland. Take an outfit like that that is trying to ramp up and say you want to buy as a cross-docker or drop-shipment customer.
Ideally though, you find your region’s version of the old cannery in Virginia that these people use for original sourcing and build a relationship there.
Hope this is some help.
I would be willing to do a podcast or phone call with you and your people. There doesn’t have to be any renumeration. I’m just trying to break a spoke in the worldly wheel that was designed to break me.
Take care, C.
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Add Comment
FApril 28, 2020 10:28 PM UTC

Lost my job in the food service industry as a buyer for a very large produce vendor whose business was mainly selling restaurants. Now is the time if you want to set things up to make alliances with these food service vendors. They also have tons of meats while Tyson is in the New York Times saying the shelves are going to run out restaurant vendors have very high grade meat they can't get rid of. Depending on the company you may be able to set up pretty pricing contracts since they are desperate to move cases.
responds:April 29, 2020 11:41 AM UTC

Good fortune to you with the employment situation and thanks so much for this information.
Nero The PictApril 28, 2020 2:57 PM UTC

Of interest at the moment to those stocking up...Restaurant Depot has opened its doors to those without a resellers

License or Tax ID number. Restaurant Depot has all manner of goods in large quantities. Janitorial supplies too. Good luck gentlemen.
responds:April 29, 2020 11:43 AM UTC

Thanks, Oh King of Pictom.

We will struggle to survive.