Some people loathe grocery shopping so much they pay to have someone do it for them. Others dish out for the service because it allows them more time with their families. And others are without a vehicle or have a disability that makes visiting the grocery store difficult.
Enter the business of online grocery shopping.
Several big-name retailers, such as Amazon and Walmart, offer the service, but most online grocery stores are private companies, such as one based in Roanoke.
Roanoker Greg Land started
ShopFoodEx.com 12 years ago as a local grocery home delivery service. He operated the business out of a spare bedroom in his s outhwest Roanoke home. Uniformed cargo van drivers shopped for the food and delivered the groceries to customers’ homes for a $9.95 service fee.
One of his loyal customers, Erin Wolfe of Roanoke, was juggling a sales career, two kids and a household. Plus, she hated grocery shopping.
“The first time I used him was the last time I set foot in the grocery store,” she said. “I wanted to hug him when he brought my groceries.”
Land never made mistakes on her orders, which often included more than 100 items, Wolfe said.
But the home delivery business came to an end.
Land didn’t have enough loyal customers, which he says is because Roanoke doesn’t have population density, and he couldn’t seem to persuade people to change their habits.
“They are so set on driving to the grocery store,” he said. “We just couldn’t overcome that hurdle.”
But demand for his services was coming from elsewhere.
Customers from across the country were finding his website and placing orders. So Land began shipping orders nationwide. The business continued serving home delivery and mail-order customers until 2008, when Land eliminated the home delivery service. The volume of mail-order customers outnumbered the home deliveries, which ate up time and gas, Land said.
The change proved to be a wise one.
Land said the business now has a customer base of 80,000 in 50 states. Land, 46, operates the company with three business partners, Jeremy Barker and Mike and Tonya Lee.
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