Grass Valley, CA — BriarPatch employee Nathan Johnson enjoys shopping at the Grass Valley discount grocery store, Grocery Outlet. He can find everything he needs there at a reasonable price.
“I can find everything I need at a very reasonable price,” commented Mr. Johnson. “I’m on a tight budget, and Grocery Outlet lets me buy the things I need and still make rent every month. They even have organic items. Actually lots of them.”
The BriarPatch is a locally operated COOP with thousands of members and stresses healthy, organic, locally sourced foods. Grocery Outlet, the Bargain Market, offers mainstream and off-brand foods at deeply discounted prices.
“Here’s the thing…I have a tight budget and would like to shop at the BriarPatch,” Mr. Johnson said, “but I can’t afford it except for a few things here and there, even with my employee discount.”
Because much of its products are locally sourced the wholesale costs are high, which are passed onto BriarPatch customers. Many BriarPatch also receive a dividend for being members. Supporters of local and organic food movements say this is the price we must pay for high quality foods, and that “factory farm” food production is not only bad for the environment, it’s bad for our food and us. Detractors maintain that the economy of scale provided by mass production is the only way to cost-effectively feed the Earth’s human population.
“I was hoping that since its so busy, I might get paid like a union employee at Safeway or something,” Mr. Johnson wondered out loud. “Weird, eh? We’re all progressives here, and yet we’re not members of a labor union.”
A quick tour of the BriarPatch and Grocery Outlet stores found that prices were indeed higher at the BriarPatch. The “Patch,” as it’s referred to by locals, had a larger variety of kale to choose from compared to Grocery Outlet’s salad bar garnish-grade type in a sealed plastic bag.
“I come here because it’s like a treasure hunt,” said Beth Feingold of Grass Valley. “Sometimes you find the strangest things, like this: ‘Christmas Lantern Trix’ breakfast cereal. My kids will love all of these green-dyed lantern nibblets.”
Mr. Johnson says that he will continue to shop at Grocery Outlet into the foreseeable future.
“You just have to be careful and check every can for dents,” he continued, “botulism, you know. I never find what I’m looking for there, it seems, but I’m always able to find something.”
Calls to BriarPatch and Grocery Outlet for comment were not returned.