Adapting the Supply Chain

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Brandon Crowell, vice president of Sierra Gold Seafood, holds two live lobsters from a tank. Photo by Lou Manna

Demand is high for curbside pickup and grocery delivery services.

The coronavirus quieted stores and restaurants when it struck the Reno-Tahoe area in March 2020, but people still had to eat. Thus, the reality of home quarantine deepened our relationship with grocery stores and suppliers to an extent we’d never had before.

Home Cuisine

Pre-pandemic, Truckee resident Nick Greece traveled for work during much of the year.

“When I’m traveling, food’s really important to me, whether it be at a Michelin-rated restaurant or street tacos,” he says.

Craving Mexican street tacos led him to Carniceria La Chiquita Meat Market & Deli, a Reno meat market carrying sumptuous carnitas, vegetables, artfully made salsas, and more.

During this period, he’s become even more committed to buying local than before — and in quantities that he can take home and freeze — and chooses curbside over delivery because it seems easier to see how food is being handled than delivery does.

Business is booming for Walter Gloshinski, owner of Reno’s Smiling With Hope Pizza. Though delivery orders are through the roof elsewhere, this pizza joint has never offered delivery.

“[I] hand the product that represents six generations of my family to someone I don’t know. And I don’t know where it’s going or when, and you get your pizza 70 minutes later,” he explains. “To me, to take that approach would be non-artisan.”

Through the pandemic, the Gloshinskis continued to make family-recipe artisan pizzas, sold through curbside delivery, and saw their pickup orders double. They began to answer the phone and take orders at 3 p.m. for pickup starting at 5 p.m. The day’s supply of dough usually was sold out by 5 p.m. Gloshinki, who says he has created a system of so-many-pizzas every 15 minutes, has reached a flow state of culinary delight.

Smiling With Hope closed this year from Jan. 1 through April 13 to give the Gloshinskis and their employees time to get fully vaccinated. But as demand has remained high, they project that they will continue selling out of takeout pizza through 2021.

Soda Springs resident Cynthia Fogel and her family of four keep a fully stocked dry pantry, but she recalls, “we really didn’t want to go into any buildings to get fresh food.”

Then a neighbor reminded Fogel that Mountain Bounty Farm in Nevada City offers a Community-Supported Agriculture, or CSA, box drop-off in Soda Springs, meaning that fewer people could possibly contaminate their food.

In Truckee, Tahoe Food Hub co-founder and executive director Susie Sutphin watched people flock to its online Harvest to Order service when grocery store shelves were empty.

Tahoe Food Hub customer Dana Morawitz picks up her weekly grocery haul, including a soup kit with a recipe for French onion soup. Photo by Jen Schmidt

“People heard about our online farmers’ market with its curbside pickup, and it immediately appealed to people,” she says. “We did not experience the same supply chain disruptions as larger grocery stores. We work directly with our growers to ensure the security of our food supply.”

Kassie Stone loads her trunk with organic, local produce from Tahoe Food Hub. Photo by Jen Schmidt

Harvest to Order users log in to an online marketplace to build a produce box or select a variety of specialty products such as local meat, eggs, and dairy. Only the amount of food people specifically order is harvested each week from local farms, so nothing goes to waste. Curbside pickup is available at the food hub’s Truckee warehouse and three new drop spots in Reno as well.

But for others, home delivery services became a staple of pandemic life. When such services can be offered by locally owned businesses that support the local economy and don’t cut into hard-hit merchants’ revenues, all the better.

Delivered To Your Door

When the pandemic hit, the owners of Reno’s Sierra Gold Seafood made the decision to use the company’s wholesale delivery trucks to deliver fresh seafood right to customers’ homes. Today, it continues to offer free delivery in the Reno area for orders of $100 or more.

Sierra Gold employee Nick Eisele loads a van for delivery to consumers. Photo by Lou Manna

“People still wanted to eat well, and they were going to [cook] it themselves,” says Sierra Gold’s Vice President Brandon Crowell. “We went through quite a bit of king crab and shellfish.”

Many folks also took advantage of curbside pickup, he says.

“We dedicated a couple [staff members] to taking curbside orders,” he says. “Older or immunocompromised people were able to just open up their hatches, and we put orders right in their cars.”

A display of items available in the seafood case at Sierra Gold. Photo by Lou Manna

Around the corner, the new Raley’s O-N-E Market in Truckee opened mid-pandemic on June 27. The market is unique among the Raley’s stores, offering a highly curated assortment of products that are organic when possible, wholesome, minimally processed, and sustainably sourced. Manager Cassedy Bauman says that a line of people wrapped around the building that day, and grocery buying was “through the roof.”

As time went on, a new wave of worry emerged from immunocompromised folks stuck at home. Those people relied on Raley’s new delivery service, which is set up through its eCart platform and delivered through local companies.

“ECart is a lot different from other grocery delivery services,” Bauman says. “You’re working with Raley’s directly, not an online ordering service. Orders are placed through our website or on our app, and our personal shoppers carefully fulfill each one. We do partner with local delivery services here in Truckee such as FoodJets (a nationwide delivery service with independent locations, each locally owned) on the last mile, though.

“It’s a transformative experience when we’re creating a situation for a family that doesn’t have the means to deliver groceries for their grandma thousands of miles away,” he continues. “For example, I’ve had customers from Tennessee call me to set up delivery [for loved ones]. When we tell them, ‘We have a delivery service,’ I’ve heard the relief in their voices.”

Truckee couple Vaughyn and Michelle Call’s business, Just Better Delivery, handles goods from just about any merchant in Truckee and surrounding areas. Unlike major delivery services such as DoorDash or Instacart, which only partner with certain merchants, the pair has delivered everything from high-quality locally sourced products from Truckee’s Mountain Valley Meats to household supplies from Ace Hardware. They even head down the hill to Reno once a week to meet customers’ needs by shopping at both chain stores and locally owned businesses, including restaurants.

During the pandemic, they saw an uptick in the need for supplies for their existing at-risk clients, as well as a rise among new clients with children.

“A lot of families chose to turn to us for their basic weekly needs,” Michelle says.

She explains that the service is committed to supporting local mom-and-pop businesses, from kitchen supply shops to restaurants, and unlike DoorDash or other major delivery chains, Just Better Delivery does not charge merchants a fee for using the service.

So whether you’re ordering takeout pizza or having ingredients for your homemade bread delivered to your door, the past year has revealed for us not just the ingenuity of business owners, but also how deep our connection to food runs.

Le‘a Gleason is a Tahoe-based freelance writer who spent much of the last year in the kitchen. She enjoys a CSA box subscription and the challenge of cooking with a set of local ingredients each week.

Resources

Just Better Delivery

Justbetterdelivery.com

Mountain Bounty Farm

Select drop locations

Mountainbountyfarm.com

Mountain Valley Meats

Curbside pickup

Mountainvalleymeats.com

Raley’s O-N-E Market Truckee

Curbside and delivery

Shop.raleys.com

Sierra Gold Seafood

Curbside and delivery

Sierragoldseafood.com

Smiling With Hope Pizza

Curbside pickup

Smilingwithhopepizza.com

Tahoe Food Hub

Curbside and drop locations

Tahoefoodhub.org/harvest-to-order

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