JACKSON, WY — A local grocer is more than just a grocery store. When done right, a local grocer is a community resource and social hub.
That was always Jeff Rice’s vision for Jackson Whole Grocer & Cafe, 2019’s “Best Grocery Store” according to Best of Jackson Hole voters.
“Having a local grocer is really important to a community,” said store Manager Tom Scott. “We made decisions that aren’t based on total product movement. No one’s telling us what to sell and what not to sell.”
Instead, Whole Grocer is able to stock items that meet special dietary needs, that are sourced from local farmers and producers, and that are generally in the community’s best interest.
“People here are healthy; they work at it,” Scott says. “They need food to support that. We’re filling that niche better than any national chain.”
Whole Grocer is also devoted to giving back to the community. They actively hire people with disabilities, for whom work is important and necessary but often hard to find. The store also made a commitment this year to support Systems of Care, an umbrella organization that supports human services in the valley.
“There’s a lot of philanthropic money in town for the arts, wildlife preservation, stuff like that,” Scott says. “We certainly support all of that. But we felt we should stay closer to the ground, and support people in need in town.”
Shoppers can opt to round up to the nearest dollar to support Systems of Care. But if they want something to show for their donation, they can also shop for art. Whole Grocer’s Art from the Heart program takes one person’s unwanted art and turns it into another’s treasure.
“We found there’s really a surplus of art just sitting around,” Scott says. But now people can donate that art to Whole Grocer, where it will decorate the café walls until someone else wants it. The art is constantly changing, so there’s something for every taste. All of the proceeds from every sale benefit Systems of Care. The program has already raised over $2,000.
“It’s a win-win all around.”
The other organization Whole Grocer really “reaches into their pocket for” is Slow Food in the Tetons, Scott says. Slow Food and Whole Grocer’s missions are closely aligned — providing healthy, locally-sourced food to the masses.
It’s not easy to run a business in Jackson, especially to fully staff a business as large as Whole Grocer. Staffing is something Scott constantly struggles with. But he’s careful to ensure the people that do work for him want to stay. Last year, Whole Grocer raised its average hourly wage by almost 30%. All of its full-time employees have benefits, and most employees work full-time. Scott is grateful, then, that Jackson recognizes the hard work Whole Grocer does.
“It’s validating. We work real hard here, and we strive to have the highest standards for our type of business in the valley. It’s really validating to have the customers say we’re doing OK.”