Getting consistent supply remains one of the biggest COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges faced by Steve Goode, owner of Arkansas-based Goode Foods LLC dba Goode’s Cash Saver.
Goode, who also is president of the Arkansas Grocers & Retail Merchants Association, said the supply issue has improved since AWG moved his company from its Southaven to Springfield distribution centers for a few weeks, which helped his stores stay better stocked in some areas.
“AWG has been a phenomenal wholesaler to work with throughout all of this,” Goode said. “With that being said, we still are seeing shortages from some of our vendor partners.”
Bread and ice cream suppliers have been the latest to experience product shortages.
As for labor, which has been an issue plaguing many retailers across the country, Goode cited his stores’ somewhat rural location as an asset.
“We have a fantastic group of teammates who have stuck with us throughout the pandemic and now,” he said.
Prior to the pandemic, in late 2019, Goode said he had planned on getting back into the grocery business full time. He was working with the governor’s administration, overseeing tobacco, alcohol, casinos, racing and medical marijuana. The governor asked him to stay through February 2020, which he did.
“My wife and I had planned on taking some time in March to travel, since I had not had any time off since going to work for the state of Arkansas in 2015,” Goode said. “We were on about day four of that vacation when COVID began. We immediately came back, and it was all hands on deck throughout the pandemic.”
Like most grocery stores, he said his fared “very well” during the pandemic in spite of product shortages at the beginning and changes in sanitation policies to protect teammates and customers.
Goode noted the loss of a partner and meat supervisor, Andy Shaw, to COVID. He had contracted COVID in July 2021 at a meat processing facility the company owned and died in September after a “hard-fought battle.”
“I can’t begin to tell you what Andy meant to me and our company,” Goode said. “Truthfully, we have not overcome his loss yet.”
Early start in industry
Goode started in the grocery business the day he turned 16, working for “a great Arkansas company, Phillip’s Food 4 Less.”
He stayed there throughout high school and college and became a store manager at age 23, when Walmart bought the company in 1991. He continued to work there until 1993, when he left to run an independent retailer.
Goode became a partner there in 2002. When the company was dissolved in 2012, it had four supermarkets, a convenience store and a Subway. He went into business for himself in 2013, with two stores in Russellville and Clinton.
He purchased a closed Walmart Neighborhood Market Express in Damascus in 2017, but also had to close his Russellville location that year due to competition. Today, he operates the Clinton and Damascus stores. “We are blessed with a great group of teammates,” he said.
Goode’s company is using social media “pretty aggressively” to attract new customers. He said one of the counties the company serves “went wet” in 2021, and that “has brought an influx of customers that has added to basket size by not only purchasing alcohol but grocery orders.”
He said in the early days of the pandemic, they were desperate for an online shopping program but found the cost prohibitive for just two stores. His wife suggested purchasing a new iPhone and having customers text orders to that phone. Store employees would pull the orders for customers to come and pick up.
“It is not the most sophisticated system but has been successful, especially with some of our older customers,” Goode said. “At the height of the pandemic, we were probably doing 75-100 orders a week. Now we do three to five a day.”
As far as any remodeling plans, the Damascus store is still somewhat new and is “probably good for a while,” although the meat department has been remodeled. The Clinton store, which Goode said was old when he bought it in 2013, was remodeled at that time, adding newer frozen doors, checkouts, dairy and fresh meat cases along with a new dairy cooler.
“Since then, we have upgraded all of our produce cases and added new beer cases along with an extensive wine section in 2021, Goode said. “We currently have new coffin cases on order that should be here in November for a fresh and frozen meat upgrade.”
Since he has started a lobbying and consulting company in Little Rock and his family also farms, Goode doesn’t have current plans to grow his company.
“We want to build our business where we are at,” he said.
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