Carrie Ferrence, owner of Stockbox Grocery, recently delivered a passionate presentation at Ignite BGI on her motivation for launching a food revolution throughout local communities in the Seattle area. Below she gives us a personal insight into what life experiences inspired her to launch Stockbox.
“My passion for good food started in an unlikely place….my local post office. I grew up in middle-of-nowhere-Pennysylvania, in a village of 150 people, three doors down from where my father was raised, and in the house that my great-grandfather had built, from lumber he milled from trees on the property. It was a pretty remarkable experience, in spite of its humble nature, and there are so many aspects of that upbringing that influence every component of my work ethic, relationships, and dreams. It’s partly that it infused me with the value of hard work and a connection to nature. But, it was also that it reinforced within me the irreplaceable value of a strong community.
Our little village had once been home to a local railroad station. As a result, there was need for essential services like the Strause General Store, which my family ran for four generations, on the first floor of their home – the one where my dad grew up. The local bar was also a couple doors down, on the first floor of the Schweitzer’s house. Those are both closed now but, up until I went away to college, the town had managed to hold on to its Post Office…on the first floor of Vera Krammes’ house, who ran the office until she retired about a decade ago.
In my experience, Vera was a somewhat stern, old lady and even my dad remembers her approximately the same way, from when he was a child. But, she was also a neighbor and she knew everybody for miles around. One of my daily chores was to stop by and pick up the mail on my walk home from the bus stop. This post office was unlike any I have ever seen and likely ever will see. You walked into a big carpeted room, framed on one side with a wall of postal boxes with glass backs….so you could always see if you had mail. Vera was often posted as a sentinel behind the counter, but sometimes you would have to sneak into her living room, where she could be found watching ‘her stories’. If you didn’t find her there, she was out in the garage getting dog food or eggs for customers…the only two staples you could still get in town.
The post office was spectacular, not because of the mail (which is actually a whole other access/equity issue) but because of the experience. I remember many times going into the space and being surrounded by the ‘elders’ of the community – local farmers who had gathered, often loudly laughing and speaking in Pennsylvania Dutch. This was where you ran into neighbors and caught up on the news (the polite term for gossip). And, to this day, my dad still considers the post office his form of the internet: he once left a question on a permitting issue with the post office employee and returned a few days later for the answer.
My irreplaceable experiences at our town’s post office provided a foundation for my career path and, even more so now, with my work at Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery. Small communities, whether they’re rural or urban, rich or poor, deserve to have access to essential services, like mail, food, or medicine. And, they deserve to have access to those services in a space they can be proud of and feel connected to, where they live.”
See Carrie’s presentation at Ignite BGI below: