April 20, 2021 – Bear with me here. Imagine, if you will, two well-heeled just out of college buddies who went to high school together, both with exceedingly great jobs in banking and finance, starting a grocery delivery business. Out of their parent’s homes. Sounds crazy, right? Thank the pandemic.
“When Covid hit last year, we suddenly found ourselves moving back home to Los Gatos,” Jonathan Friedland told us. He’s talking about himself and his high school buddy Chris Clark. Friedland had been living in San Francisco, where he had a nice apartment and cushy job at Accenture. Suddenly, he wasn’t going into the office. And the city was not a fun place to be with everything shut down, so he moved back to his parent’s house in Los Gatos. So did Chris, who was working for an investment bank. Back in their old hometown, the friends grew restless.
“We drove around town and everywhere we went, we saw people standing in lines,” he says. “Long lines. Crazy long lines. People were lined up at Trader Joe’s around the building, and at Manresa Bread the line wrapped around two blocks! We thought, this is insane!”
For all the people waiting in socially distanced lines, there had to be many more who were afraid to go out at all. Friedland and Clark surmised that local residents were doubtless missing their favorite products from local small producers. And that’s where the idea of Shop Locale originated. At first, it was a simple Google Docs form, with payment via Venmo, cash and check. Their parents and their grandparents were their first customers, but word of mouth, NextDoor and local press helped launch the concept in a virally good manner.
“We started with Manresa Bread and a few other local businesses, like Fleur de Coco, Juice Co, Oren’s Hummus and Bunches, and it just grew organically,” says Friedland, who recently took time out of his first visit to Maui to share details of this incredibly exciting and rapidly expanding concept. “Our goal was to offer the best local food you can buy. Cheeses from Marin cheese companies, pasta from Bayview Pasta. Customers want a curated experience.”
He likens shopping on their website to cruising through Trader Joe’s. There’s a limited number of specialty items and it takes you 10 minutes to find what you want, then you’re done. It’s not like getting lost in a large supermarket where there are too many choices.
“We really found a niche with Shop Locale,” says Friedland, And it’s helping not only consumers, but farmers and small artisan producers all over the greater Silicon Valley, plus Santa Cruz and Monterey.
Their mainstay for produce is Alba Farms, a concept funded by the HP Foundation that leases land to would-be farmers and helps them get started in raising their crops. It’s been in place for about 20 years now, and the farmers they are buying from produce things like carrots, zucchini, snap peas and broccolini. “It’s all good organic stuff,” he says. They also source produce from Coke Farms, Brokaw Ranch, and Bella Vita Farms, sausages from Journeyman Meat and cream from Straus Family Creamery.
Not only has the business taken off, it has forced the two entrepreneurs to rethink their life’s work.
“We both quit our jobs,” says Friedland. “This company is so much more rewarding! We feel like we’re providing a real service. At some point, we might pay ourselves!”
They recently had to rent a storage facility in San Jose to warehouse all the produce and other items as they stage the customized boxes for delivery. They have a board of directors and investors, and are running it like a real company. “We’ve hired lots of high school and college kids to help us. We have between 100 and 120 employees who choose to work when they can, with typically 40 to 50 on the job each week. We have 20 to 25 baggers and the rest are doing delivery. We are doing 350 to 400 deliveries just this week.”
Friedland explains that each regular delivery costs just $5. There’s no minimum order amount and the delivery fee remains the same, regardless of how much or little you purchase. The average order is around $100 and employees doing the deliveries typically make enough tips to bring their average salary to $25/hour or more.
For now, deliveries are strictly done on Saturdays. The regular delivery window is 9am to 2pm, for which you pay $5. If you want to narrow down the window, you have two choices: 9—11, or noon to 2pm, both of which cost a whopping $8. “You’d be surprised how many people want a delivery window,” says Friedland. “We figure we can get out 400 to 500 orders in that five hour period. If there’s sufficient demand, we may add more hours or another delivery day.”
With so many great farmers and artisan producers in Santa Cruz, not to mention a clientele with a taste for fresh, they recently expanded their delivery routes to include the Summit area and are now delivering to Santa Cruz, Capitola, and as far south as La Selva Beach in Aptos.
“We offer some amazing products from the Santa Cruz area such as Pacific Cookie Co, Fogline Farm, Corvus Ranch, and starting next week Companion Bakery and Soif wine bar in Santa Cruz. We love the multi-colored eggs from Rob James of Corvus Farm & Ranch in Pescadero.”
James, whose regenerative farm is located next to neighbor Caleb Barron’s Fogline Farms, explains that there is a correlation between the color of the yolk and the diet of the hen, but that the color of the shell is strictly a function of the breed of the bird.
“The deeper richer yolk to me says that chicken has been out on pasture. I always look for what’s the color of the yolk, in conjunction with, how was that chicken raised?” says James. “As far as the shell color, that’s determined by the breed of the chicken. There are white layers, there are brown layers, we have some varieties here on the farm that lay super dark brown, those are Marans — they call them a chocolate egg because they are so dark brown — and then we have some ‘Easter eggers’, so if you open your box and see a blue or green egg, that came from one of our Ameraucanas.”
Friedland is excited about the partnership with Soif, for prepared foods, and wants to bring on more restaurants, including Zona Rosa in Los Gatos. They also have meal kits.
The next big step is beer and wine. “We really want to partner with local breweries like Humble Sea, and local wineries,” he adds.
What are some of the things he’s learned by doing this? “People are very willing to help. They gave us great feedback up front to help us be the very best we can be. We want the experience to be great. And people are always asking us to add more local businesses that they support. We love that.”
Every choice they make is guided by the idea of serving the community. As their mission statement says, “Our philosophy is that when the local economy flourishes, our quality of life improves with it. Our schools have more funding, our children are better equipped to find summer jobs, and you as a consumer can benefit from better quality goods. We think the majority of our food can be purchased locally, and our goal is to offer a convenient way to do so.”
So, Shop Locale and support your favorite businesses, along with the new ones you’re about to discover.