03 Nov PacWesty Serves Town and Country Customers
The PacWesty grocery delivery service, in partnership with Town and Country Markets, is delivering groceries to customers in Ballard, Shoreline, Poulsbo, and on Bainbridge Island. Over the past seven months, we’ve made over 3,000 deliveries and carried approximately 15,000 bags of groceries to the homes of T&C customers.
Today, our delivery program is well-developed and operating smoothly, but it was only in May that I joined the PacWesty team as a driver for the up-and-coming delivery service. I began delivering on Bainbridge Island and found myself driving the same roads I’d been traveling for years. I recognized names on grocery bags and drove past the houses of families I’d known forever. Driving Joule one day in June, I passed the field of my middle school and honked the horn for the eighth-grade grads in their drive-through graduation procession. And so, in a time of social disconnection and isolation, I felt that I was reconnecting to the island community in unexpected and welcome ways. I was coming face to face with community members I never would have met under normal circumstances, too. They thanked me for my effort and shared their gratitude for the service we provide. It really began to feel like more than just delivery, but a necessary effort to maintain normalcy for our customers–at least in their relationship to the food they love. I started to see the grocery delivery service, and my part in it, as a form of community support, delivering foods to those who were often unable to take the risk of exposure at the store.
As the weeks passed, I started delivering to customers in Seattle more frequently and took to commuting to Ballard with the company E-bike. I’d ride the bike through the sculpture park along the waterfront, pick up the electric delivery van, and deliver groceries to customers in Ballard and Shoreline before catching the ferry home. Around this time, I assumed the role of Logistics Coordinator for the delivery business and found myself carrying the responsibility of managing the service and helping to plan its growth. Included in my new responsibilities was the task of hiring drivers. I knew we needed to bring people on to the team who could handle a flat tire, or fiddle with an old Vanagon that wouldn’t start; and after a few rounds of interviewing, training, and stick-shift-reverse-up-a-hill-parallel-parking, I’m confident in our team. I feel that we are well-equipped to handle any problems that come our way. Importantly too, we have a good time talking and laughing during our impromptu parking lot meetings in Seattle or at the shop on Bainbridge. We’ve also been lucky to find new hires who share our interest in these old vans or even have one of their own, like Luke and his big pup Waylon in their 70’s Westy; or Adrianne, who grew up driving her parents’ vans and whose father is jealous that she gets to drive a Syncro at work. But, like Greg says, “everyone has a van story,” and I often try to picture my parents living out of one of these Vanagons while they crisscrossed the country in their twenties. I guess that shared love and dedication to these unique vehicles is why they’ve been rebuilt and maintained for so long, and why I now find myself in an electrified Vanagon that is over fifty years old.
When our electric vehicles aren’t available, we drive our conventional VW Vanagons and deliver in style.
Among the responsibilities I gained as the Logistics Coordinator, was safety management for our team. Given the nature of our operations during the pandemic and the hazards of operating vehicles every day, safety is something that is always on my mind–but danger often appears in unexpected ways. When the wildfire smoke and ash arrived, I wasn’t sure we would be able to continue offering delivery. I didn’t want to work outside or risk provoking my asthma, and I didn’t want to put our employees in that position either, but we had customers that needed our service. Fortunately, we were able to borrow respirators from our maintenance shop and continue delivering to those who needed it. Typically, only used during painting, sanding, or grinding rust, the respirators worked well to filter the smoke for our team. Delivering in hazardous smoke, using electric vehicles, to those who were seeking refuge from a respiratory disease, was our way of supporting our community and our environment.
Working on the delivery service and becoming part of the PacWesty team over the past seven months has been an engaging and fulfilling experience. It feels good to be part of a company that is making real progress toward important goals, like community support and environmental stewardship. In addition, it’s just fun to be a part of the action at PacWesty. There is always something interesting in the works here–whether it’s a new electric vehicle conversion, like the refrigerated food rescue vehicle for the University District Food Bank; a new business partnership, like our EVO trips; or a company weekend, like our Coast Savers beach cleanup and surf trip in Westport a few weeks ago. I am so glad to be working somewhere that pursues interesting and useful goals, and does so in a way that promotes good humor and fun. I mean, we even have a “pow day” option on our time off form–now that’s my kind of work place.
We’ve retrofitted our fleet of electric vehicles for delivery and offset the carbon emissions of thousands of trips to the store. Our Electric Delivery Fleet includes a beautiful 1969 VW Vanagon named “Joule.”
A few years ago, I worked at a start-up in Berlin that curated a digital community hub for social entrepreneurs in Germany and the UK. Writing for that website and learning about amazing entrepreneurs using their organizations to solve social and environmental issues, opened my eyes to the positive impact a company could have. At that time, I daydreamed about what I might do; what business I could start or NGO I could work for; where I could live and what problems I could solve. I carried that idealism with me after I left and I’m grateful now that I’m able to direct that energy into an organization that is having a real, positive impact in the community that I know so well.