Earlier this month, Common Market, a community-owned organic and natural foods grocery store, announced its purchase of the former Safeway location on W. 7th Street. With more than twice the amount of space as the Common Market’s current location on Route 85, this second site will serve as the new headquarters and bring an estimated 110 jobs to the City of Frederick.
“The Common Market’s news is good for the City in more comprehensive ways than just economic development, because this particular venture aligns with our sustainability plan, land use best practices, and smart growth.” - Mayor Michael O’Connor
We caught up with General Manager Bob Thompson and Troy Sexton, the Category & Advertising Manager, to chat about the new location and their vision for it as a model of sustainability.
Here’s what the COMMON MARKET team had to share:
Choosing the 7th Street Location
Troy: Being able to move into a spot already developed as a grocery store was huge. It’s upsetting to see new construction and continued loss of farmland due to development when there are vacant buildings available for use. As we planned the expansion, it was important to us that we find a building where we didn’t have to break land or disrupt local ecosystems.
Bob: And, by moving into space previously used as a grocery store, we can reuse a lot of the infrastructure -- all the drains, everything that was stainless steel, quite a bit of the shelfing. Any metal left behind that we can’t use we’ll be making sure ends up recycled, not in a landfill. We were also able to sell some of the equipment that Safeway left behind to other local businesses at a reduced rate, preventing fixtures from being dumped into a landfill while also benefitting local businesses.
Retrofitting for Efficiency
Bob: Despite reusing what we can, we will absolutely be making improvements. The 7th Street location is currently fit-out with 1980’s technology. We’ll be updating that with the latest science – finding the best ways to make the store sustainable, energy efficient, and comfortable for our customers. The refrigeration systems have a lot of room for improvement, for example. Not only are the updated systems we plan to install 50-60% more efficient, but all our display cases will be fitted with glass doors to further reduce the energy load needed to keep them cool. We also currently purchase renewable energy credits for 100% of our energy use per calendar year, and we will be continuing that practice at the second location.
Troy: Outside, we’re excited to say we’ll be installing Electric Vehicle charging stations. At our Route 85 location, we currently offer two stations, which we see in use most of the day. At the 7th Street site, we will be offering four stations, and, on top of that, we’re working on installing a level 3charger, which would charge the cars even faster.
Expanding the Recycling Initiatives
Troy: At our current location, we run an extensive recycling program that I think is better than any other place in Frederick County. We work hard to keep a lot of things out of the landfill -- candy bar wrappers, potato chip bags, plastic bags, unwanted electronics, you name it. By having a second store, we will be offering a new location for people on the other side of town to more easily join us in our commitment to keeping Frederick County clean. And, since we’re going to have more space, we’re going to look at expanding these programs as well.
Bob: Just as an interest note on that, in the past 5 years, we’ve saved almost 1.5 million plastic bags from the landfill as part of our ‘Bring a Bag’ program. If we can match that at this second location, that’s a total of 3 million bags that don’t end up in a landfill over the next 5 years.
Troy: And the money not spent on those bags is donated to local charities, totaling over $107,000 over 5 years just in bring a bag. We will bring this to 7th street and potentially double that donation. So, it’s a win-win.
Supporting Local – Environment & Economy
Troy: Whether it’s working to protect local ecosystems, keeping Frederick County clean through recycling programs, donating to local charities, supporting local businesses, or growing the Frederick job base, it all comes back to supporting local. Both our environmental and economic initiatives--all tie in to making our community a better place to live. We’re in it for Frederick County and the people who live here.
Bob: Facilitating other local business’ efforts to be community-minded is where this kind of work really starts to compound. Take Sweet Farm, for example. Her business has grown because of her sales at Common Market so much that she’s been able to transition some part-time positions to full-time positions and has even hired a full-time Kitchen Manager. We have also helped her with brand recognition because a lot of customers are saying they have heard of her product because of Common Market. With our second location, her business could double, maybe triple. That’s going to grow her business and allow her to continue her own very strong commitment to the community and the environment and even potentially add more jobs to Frederick. By providing a platform for engaged people, we see the Frederick community benefit in so many ways.
Advice to Other Companies Considering Going Green
Troy: For other companies considering green initiatives, I’ll share this story. Over the holidays, we do a holiday lights recycling drive. The first year we did it we got 124 lbs. of holiday lights. That was 124 lbs. of Christmas lights that didn’t end up in a landfill. They were sent away, the plastic was taken off, and the metal was stripped down. That was good, but we wanted to see if we could be better, so we ran the program again. This year, we collected over 1400 lbs. of Christmas string lights! That just shows that something that started off small had the ability to, over time, trigger an incredible response from Frederick County.
Bob : Exactly. Some of these things start small. As a business person you might think “that wasn’t worth the effort.” But if you just keep after it, it will grow.