New Seasons Market has been a dominant force in the Portland food scene for years. But with a new(ish) CEO, Wendy Collie, the face of New Seasons is changing. This is Collie’s fourth year at the grocery store and as she turns from rookie to veteran her goal of bringing change but keeping the old has never had more impact.
“We are just a grocery store – what makes us unique is the story behind our product,” says Wendy Collie.
What makes New Seasons unique is its role in the industry. Although they offer mostly local and organic products with a focus on health and handmade, they also sell an array of factory manufactured foods such as name brand candy and soda. This is a distinction that is shared with few of New Season’s competitors.
“We want everyone to have access to really healthy and good tasting food. If you go into Whole Foods and you want to buy a Diet Coke or M&Ms you can’t. We provide what we think is convenient for the customer. We hope [if] people buy M&Ms [they] eventually move away from the [M&Ms] and get the really good quality chocolates. [But] if you believe people should make their own choices then you have to provide those.”
New Seasons also offers a wide variety of prepared foods. Although they did not invent the grocery store deli, they continue to innovate and tweak their offerings. As Collie describes it, the New Seasons’ Innovation team looks for what is missing in their menu.
“She (Director of Food Innovation Beth McDonald) might say we need a clam chowder that is gluten free and low fat and we want something that is creamy and chunky. Then she’ll work with our central kitchen to find out what that recipe might look like. We all always looking for what are the categories or demands that we are missing.”
This idea of being a neighborhood store plays an integral part in Collie’s management of New Seasons. With the motto “The Friendliest Store in Town,” Collie goes great lengths to ensure their staff is properly trained to care for their customers. In fact, every employee at New Seasons receives a “Get Out Of Jail Free Card.” (SEE PHOTOGRAPHS AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE).
“It’s an empowerment tool. You can do anything you need to do to take care of the customer and if anybody in the company says that wasn’t the right thing to do you can pull this card out. I have never in my three years had someone use it because [our employees] know that any decision [benefiting the customer] is one that we will support.”
New Seasons has become a fixture in Portland’s neighborhoods and it will open its first store in Seattle in the fall.
Came to Portland because she was recruited by a company that does early childhood education
New Seasons Fun Fact: New Seasons is the first is the first grocery store in the world and one of 2 in the U.S. to be B Corp Certified.