by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer
Good Earth Market, built from the ground up 16 years ago in Ocean View, Delaware, is a woman-owned business. It started solely as a grocery store, and about nine years ago, owner Susan Ryan had a tenant come in and start a restaurant.
After leasing that portion for a little while, she’s taken back ownership of it. Today, the store runs a full-scale restaurant with a full bar on one side of the building and a specialty market on the other.
Laura Say, store manager, has been working with Ryan on and off since Good Earth Market opened, committing full time again within the past six years. And her help was more than needed last year.
“Summertime was absolutely insanity in here because of course, Memorial Day weekend, they just decided to open the floodgates and let everybody come to the beach,” Say said. “We were still extremely busy in the summer but struggling with a lack of staffing and the restrictions to deal with.”
Ryan previously opened and operated a second Good Earth Market location in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, but sold it to her sister and brother-in-law in November. In the first several months of the pandemic, though, Ryan and Say were juggling both.
“In March and April, I ran the store and [Ryan] ran our other store at the time. We had no other staffing. We did it individually,” Say said.
“We didn’t get staffing back until May, and that was one person in May, and then I got two more people back in June. Very, very limited staffing for March and April and May.”
Today, Say is one of six employees total in the market.
“It’s a very small operation. We get the trucks, and we put them away. I don’t have, like, six people putting trucks away – there’s usually two of us doing it. It’s very hands on.”
Another challenge for the market was supply chain issues, which were all too familiar for the industry nationwide.
“There was a while, for about eight months, where I couldn’t get certain products. Toilet paper, paper towels, supplements, flour, yeast, baking items, canned items. I mean, you name it – it was a problem,” Say said.
“Even with some of my local ladies that do stuff. I have a local jelly and jam lady, and we were having trouble getting stuff from her because she couldn’t get jars because everybody was doing their own canning.”
However, Good Earth Market was able to adjust to the pandemic and offer curbside pickup. People were seeking out what the store specializes in – natural and organic, homeopathic products and supplements.
“There was a lot of personal shopping that we had never done for people before…I have several customers that still do that weekly,” Say said.
“We definitely have some supplements that people are looking for, that they can’t get at a regular drugstore or grocery store or anything like that.
“We carry a lot of fresh produce that’s organic. We also carry organic meats, as well as shelf stable products. We have a nice vegan selection, gluten free selection – things of that nature.”
As for what this year holds, Say said that Good Earth Market is ready for more traffic in the store. Currently, the state of Delaware allows a 30 percent shopping capacity.
To read about another independent grocer in Delaware, click here for The Shelby Report‘s article. To learn more about what the Delaware Food Industry Council has been doing throughout the pandemic, click here for another Shelby exclusive.