A new experiment in grocery shopping is coming to Capitol Hill but the new venture is not backed by a retail giant . “Waste-less grocery store” The Naked Grocer is making plans to open its “packaging free” shopping concept on E Pine at the corner of Boylston, joining the block home to Rudy’s Barbershop, Realfine Coffee, and Fogon. The new business on the block will also mean a new start for neighborhood pawn shop Capitol Loans.
Jayne Truesdell, who cut her entrepreneurial teeth working with Autumn Martin to grow Seattle’s Hot Cakes, tells CHS the Naked Grocer is born out of the recent loss of her father and the realization that our time on the planet is dear.
“It brought home to me my time on this planet is incredibly finite,” Truesdell says. “I’m going to start spending my energy on something that holds value for me.”
When it opens late this year in the transformed former pawn shop space, Truesdell says Naked Grocer will be “nearly a one-stop shop” for grocery needs for those seeking retail that cuts down on the environmental impact of modern food shopping as much as possible.
“Recycling is great solution,” she says. “But the best solution is to eliminate it altogether.”
Starting the Naked Grocer will also be marked by a path Truesdell set out on when she stepped away and took a break from her entrepreneurial drive. Her time working in a grocery store will inform how the Naked Grocer is staffed to handle the realities of the “laborious retail work” that comes with the industry. Her goal is a small team that is busy — but not understaffed. She’ll also encourage little things like giving the checkers a place to sit while they work if they choose.
Naked Grocer shoppers will find a deli and bakery counter with fresh goods, prepared foods, and cheeses ready for pick-up, a fresh produce area, and a refrigerator and freezer section stocked with bulk frozen fruits, and, of course, bulk tofu. At the core of the store will be the bins full of bulk items from beans to grains to, CHS’s NorCal roots hope, carob. Truesdell says Naked Grocer is going with a “scoop bin” design, not gravity bins because they’re easier to clean and less prone to terrible messes. A wall will be filled with more scoops for spices, plus an area to purchase liquids like refillable shampoos and conditioners.
Shopping the Naked Grocer will be a bit of an active endeavor but Truesdell says the 2,500-square-foot space is being planned with “clean sightlines” and plenty of room to move around.
“I looked at old fashioned grocery stores for inspiration,” Truesdell said. “Other than meat and fish, it’s a one stop shop.” She plans partnerships and promotions of local providers to help connect Naked Grocer shoppers with their non-plant protein needs.
Truesdell is putting together the financing behind the grocery startup the old fashioned way. It’s been “a journey,” she said.
“I thought funding would be easier but grocery margins are too low.”
A core investor “really committed to idea” has been key as will be a traditional Small Business Administration loan. Along with his inspiration, she also has an inheritance from the passing of her father to help launch her dream business. The opportunities are reminders, she says.
“This has brought to light how you can have all the advantages in the world and still face so many challenges,” she said. “It’s just takes so much cash up front to start.”
The start of the Naked Grocer will mean a new start for another Capitol Hill business.
Robert Chandler has operated Capitol Loans since 1992. With new landlord Asana Partners purchasing the pawn shop’s building, Chandler said he wasn’t surprised when he found out he’d need to move. Being able to secure a new home practically across the street helps his mood about the whole thing — as does the opportunity to switch things up a bit.
While Capitol Loans will remain in the collateral loan business, Chandler says the flood of government programs around COVID-19 have changed the industry and that fewer people are seeking out pawn services. He’s planning to reopen his shop across the street in the 611 E Pine building most recently home to Suika which lost its lease during the pandemic. The new shop, Chandler says, will likely do more to emphasize music gear and equipment. Remember High Voltage? He’s hoping to also make space for performances when the new spot opens.
This stretch of E Pine has been busy with reopening-era planning. CHS reported here on plans from Capitol Hill tech firm Add3 to purchase the auto row-era building formerly home to R Place and overhaul the club while creating a new company headquarters and office space upstairs. Meanwhile, just north of the intersection of Pine and Boylston where Naked Grocer’s construction is set to begin, a major overhaul is underway to convert the old Heath Printers building home to Hill-based coworking concern Office Nomads into a new complex for a not yet announced mystery restaurant.
For Chandler who has seen decades of growth, depression, and then growth again in Pike/Pine, you might call the mood skeptically optimistic.
For Truesdell and the Naked Grocer, there is hope that, despite the daunting challenge of Seattle-high rents, the densely packed apartment buildings filled with busy, young shoppers will be the perfect community to grow something she feels in heart the planet needs.
“I wanted to be in a place where people lived and worked in the neighborhood, where they were really interested in being environmentally friendly,” she said, “while making things convenient, beautiful, and pleasurable.”
“Why can’t a store feel like that?”
The Naked Grocer is planned to open in late 2021 or early 2022 at 620 E Pine. You can follow @thenakedgrocer for updates. Watch facebook.com/CapitolLoans/ for updates on what’s next for Capitol Loans.
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