With the recent takeover of Drive Organics by Choices Market, I am very concerned that I will be losing the store I love. I walked into the store this week and already the apple bins had been changed. Staff had been “offered the choice to leave” due to Choices’ corporate dress policy, and a number of people I know and appreciate are gone. There was a section of pre-packaged, non-organic, pre-made food items. The bulk food section has been decimated. And this is just the beginning.
I am very sad to see the end of my beloved Drive Organics. I have written this letter to the CEO of Choices Markets, describing what I love about Drive Organics, hoping to stem the tides of change. And I am preparing to vote with my feet…
Dear Ishkander Ahmed,
I have been a very loyal customer of Drive Organics for many years. I currently do all of my grocery shopping there, as well as purchase supplements and household cleaning products. My monthly spending at Drive Organics is between $500 and $1,000 every month.
I am concerned about your intention, as stated in Business in Vancouver, to rebrand the store as a Choices Market. I believe you do not understand the culture on Commercial Drive. It will be a mistake for you to rebrand the store to be like the other Choices Markets. The people on Commercial Drive value different things than your customers in Yaletown, for example. We value cultural diversity and individual expression, political dissent, and local and sustainable food sources. The current branding at Drive Organics reflects these values.
I am aware that you have already begun the rebranding by forcing employees to leave Drive Organics because of Choices dress policies regarding tattooing and piercing. Big mistake! This will drive away customers who are not only loyal to the store but to the members of our community who work there.
These are things I love about Drive Organics:
- Employees with dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings, and odd clothing choices. I don’t want to shop at a store where the employees are forced to conform to a mainstream image. No uniforms!
- Eclectic alternative music that reflects these employees’ tastes. Not elevator music or Top 40.
- The feeling of being in a hippie market in a small town, not a sanitized corporate chain store.
- All the produce is organic. Yes—100% of the produce is organic. I don’t have to read the labels on the shelving to sort out which products are organic and which are not. I don’t have to limit my menu because only a few items I want are available as organic—as happened on those few occasions when I tried shopping at Choices Yaletown.
- Very little meat. The customer base at Drive Organics is mostly vegetarian and vegan. We don’t want to see a big meat section with a display of the flesh of dead animals. Currently Drive Organics has a very small selection of ethically raised and butchered meat and fish. If you change that to offer the type of meat selection most markets carry, you will drive away a large portion of your customer base.
- Organic choices for every type of food and grocery items, including bulk foods. I have seen at Choices that you offer a lot of non-organic items. Not interested! There is a reason that I do all my shopping at Drive Organics and that is because whenever possible I only buy and eat organic food.
I advise you to think twice before making any changes that will change the vibe and ethos of Drive Organics. There are other grocery stores that Commercial Drive customers can choose, including Sweet Cherubim, Eternal Abundance, East End Food Co-Op, and Donald’s Market.
I will be watching closely to see the changes you make. If you try to make this store into a regular Choices Market, you will lose me and many other customers.