T&C bids goodbye to Thriftway, strikes out on own

After 45 years in the Thriftway corral, Town & Country Markets are riding off on their own.

At the end of the month, Bainbridge Island’s mainstay grocery store will dissolve its relationship with the Thriftway marketing cooperative, as will the company’s stores in Poulsbo and Ballard.

“We will try to create our own brand identity,” said T&C President Larry Nakata. “And we need to unite ourselves a little more.”

The name has sometimes created confusion, especially outside of Bainbridge, Nakata said, with people thinking erroneously that Thriftway stores in Kingston or Queen Anne are part of Bainbridge-based T&C, or failing to realize that the Central Market stores in Poulsbo and Shoreline are part of the group.

“Each of our stores is proud of its independence, but we believe they are also proud of their association with the group,” Nakata said. “Many customers don’t know the stores are connected.”

In addition to new logos on the employee clothing and the removal of “Thriftway” insignias from the company stores, the dissolution will change the way the stores market their products.

External advertising, which has been done in conjunction with the Thriftway cooperative, will cease, giving way to in-store advertising.

“Outside advertising can create problems in the produce department especially,” Nakata said. “You have to prepare the ads well in advance, but the produce market changes daily. We want to be able to offer the freshest and highest-quality produce.”

The Thriftway affiliation could also be confining, he said.

“We were not always addressing our own clientele to the degree we would like,” he said. “We will look for company-specific deals through our suppliers, and we can respond to the market faster.”

The affiliation with purchasing co-operative Associated Grocers will not change, Nakata said.

The Winslow Way market has been affiliated with Thriftway for all of its 45 years, but customers should see little difference after the change, Nakata said.

The change is driven in significant part by the desire of company employees to do more of their own marketing and store-specific purchasing, which is part of the growth process for the six-store group.

“We do want to grow our company over time,” Nakata said. “It’s a natural evolution of a healthy organization.

“People bring their own personalities and skills, and to nurture that, you have to provide more opportunities.”

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