Communique: Tidal Creek & Whole Foods Join Forces To Bring RO Water To Wilmington's Northside

Aug 29, 2017

Tidal Creek Coop and Whole Foods Market are natural competitors...they both sell food and products to health conscious consumers. But this week, Tidal Creek is encouraging everyone-including its members-to go to Wine Down Wednesday at Whole Foods. That's because these two grocers are working together to raise money to purchase and install a Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filtration machine at Dreams of Wilmington. On Wednesday, August 30, 6pm-8pm, Wine Down Wednesday offers 5 food/wine pairing samples at Whole Foods for $5--and all the money is going to this RO project. 

The RO filtration machine is not intended to be used just by students at Dreams, but to provide citizens living on the northside of downtown Wilmington easier access to clean water. Tidal Creek Coop started the fundraiser several weeks ago by putting aside all the profits from its RO water sales. Listen above to Shaylah Paul, Marketing & Outreach coordinator from Tidal Creek, and Chelsea Thornhill, Marketing & Community Liaison from Whole Foods. Read the extended transcript below. 

Reverse Osmosis Filtration at Tidal Creek Coop
Credit Tidal Creek Coop

Gina: What's happening on August 30th?

Chelsea: Whole Foods is having our monthly Wine Down Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. and we do this every month. And it supports a different nonprofit or cause each month and attendees pay a five dollar donation and receive five wine and food pairings. We have five stations set up throughout the store. Have a little bit of the menu-not the full menu-with me. And we-myself and our store leadership-have been wanting to do something to support this situation with Gen X. I saw what Tidal Creek was doing with starting to fundraise to put in this filtration system at Dreams. And you know, part of this problem is that there are a lot of people in our community who don’t know as much as a lot of the others of us do about the situation. They don’t know where to get water. They may not have transportation to go fill big jugs of water and take them, you know, take them home. So Tidal Creek-and I don’t know the whole story behind it but Shayla can fill us in on that-they decided, you know, putting in a filtration system that Dreams would be a way to reach those folks in the community who don't have easy access.

Gina: Shayla, how did that start that you wanted to put a filtration system in Dreams?

Shayla: So, as Chelsea mentioned, there's a lot of different groups and organizations and even individuals in our community who are trying to address the Gen-X issue, trying to get clean water to people. And myself and some of my coworkers were present at a lot of the initial forums and hearing all of these ideas and seeing all of these different moving parts and we weren't seeing that it was all coming together with one sustainable long term plan. And it was actually-I have to credit my general manager, Krista Jorgensen, with the idea. She said, why don't we take the same type of machine that we have in our store and put it somewhere else? Put it somewhere in the community that needs access to clean water. And so we went with it and we started thinking, okay how can we do this? So what we're doing is we're donating 100 percent of the profits of our bulk water sales from our machine in the store to this cause. And what we were hoping would happen when we started this was that it would attract attention from other organizations and businesses around town to kind of jump on board and say, we want to help with this.

And then, all of a sudden, the first call I get is from Chelsea from Whole Foods. Which was amazing because in some ways you could say that we are competitors-we're both grocery stores, we're both purveyors of the same types of products, but our missions are the same. And when we have it, when we have an issue like Gen X, when we don't have safe water, it affects us all. And so now we're coming together as as partners rather than competitors so, it was one of the best days ever when she called me and said, we want to work with you on this.

Chelsea: That's awesome. Thank you for saying that.

Gina: That's the first thing that we said here at the station. Look at this, Whole Foods and Tidal Creek working together, because -it's not just that you are both grocery stores, you're both grocery stores focused on a certain type of food. You know, both stores have a lot of organics, you guys are very much targeting the same people. People who shop at Tidal Creek likely shop at Whole Foods.

Chelsea: They care about where their food comes from and what's in it.

Gina: Chelsea, when you called her did you think, this is kind of odd that I'm calling one of our competitors?

Chelsea: Oh yeah, I mean, I...I put a lot of thought into that phone call before I made it. You know, I wanted to be just very considerate of Tidal Creek and not wanting to steal their thunder, per se, you know? Because they had this idea and I thought it was a fabulous idea and I just, I just reached out, you know, more as a friend. You know, like hey, we want to help you guys and we can do it in this way and, you know, do you want to work together? And I loved how positive the response was and I felt like it would be, you know. Tidal Creek is just that way. You know, they're good people.

Shayla: And we talked about it a little bit, you know, the conflict of interest that might come up. So, is it weird for Tidal Creek to tell our customers, go to Whole Foods on Wednesday and do this event and maybe do your grocery shopping there? But in the grand scheme of things, this isn't about losing customers. This is about sharing...sharing customers and acknowledging that we are part of one community. Our shoppers are the same people, they care about the same issues. And so again, it's all, it's all about the bigger picture and about accomplishing this goal and getting more people involved. And hopefully this will send a message and set a precedent and get more people on board.

Gina: Tell me about the Wine Down event.

Chelsea: Wine Down Wednesday, like I said, we have five stations set up throughout the store. We have our seafood department, our meat department, our specialty department, our prepared foods department, and our bakery. And we have our beverage specialist. She pairs up wine that's suitable with each dish that's sampled. So you get two ounces of wine at each station-a total of 10 ounces of wine. So for a five dollar donation it's a good deal. And we provide a cute little tray and your wine glass so when you come in you get five tickets-that's one for each station or sometimes people like to go to one station twice because they really liked the wine or what have you. And we try to always have at least one vegan option. Usually there are several. This month a couple of things we have on the menu are tequila lime shrimp skewers paired with a pineapple mango salsa and then we have mini Cubana burgers paired with a 50/50 salsa, which is like a pico/guacamole combo.

Gina: So for five bucks. And Shayla, how much money is needed for this machine?

Shayla: So it's between seven and nine thousand dollars to purchase the reverse osmosis machine and get it installed. And I just found out where we're at, which is really exciting because at this point-this is based only on our profits from the water that we sell in our store-and this is that after about six or seven weeks, we're at forty six hundred dollars.

Gina: Wow.

Shayla: I couldn't believe it.

CheIsea: I can't believe it. I do believe it, but that's...that's amazing.

Shayla: So we're we're about halfway there.  And so with the Wine Down Wednesday event we're hoping that will bump us up a little bit more. How many people usually come through?

Chelsea: So we usually get between 100 and 120. We'll see-this month maybe will will be set up a little more. So, you know, $500 on average.

Gina: Can people also make an extra donation at Wine Down?

Chelsea: Yes. We'll have a table set up, which is what we do every month and Shayla and myself for part of the time and then, I believe maybe someone from Dreams will be there to talk about what the event is in support of and we'll have a donation jar available if anyone wants to make additional donations.

Gina:  You're more than halfway there, even at the high end of the price. How did Dreams get chosen as the place for the installation?

Shayla: So, these types of machines need a facility to be housed in. They can't just be outside. It's not sanitary. They need somewhere that can be maintained. We've worked with Dreams before as one of our Real Change recipients, another charitable giving initiative that we do. And they're in a perfect spot.

The neighborhood of downtown Wilmington, the North side. It's a USDA food desert. There's not access to any safe water, to any clean water. There's no clean water access, no good food access.

So we figured they would be perfect location wise. And they also have a facility that has regular business hours. They're open Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 5:00 or 6:00 depending on whether school is in session. And Matt Carven, who I've spoken with, was really excited right from the get go. And so that's why we chose them.

Gina: Do you know how it will work for the community when this machine gets put into Dreams?

Shayla: So that's going to be up to Dreams. They'll set the hours. I'm not sure if it will be accessible all of their business hours or if it'll be like, you know, open certain designated hours during the day. That's going to be up for up to Dreams to decide.

Gina: And then you all also have a reverse osmosis situation at Whole Foods.

Chelsea: We do.

Gina: You all are not only working with your competitors but you're actually, you just put in another place for people to buy water.

Chelsea: It's all about the bigger picture, though.

Shayla: I agree.

Chelsea: To both of us.

Shayla: I think in this day and age, every, every grocery store is is on the organic bandwagon and there's new grocery stores popping up every month. And so, I think to stay competitive in the market, you have to focus more on what your values are. And I mean, there's also Amazon now selling groceries. There's Blue Apron...Fresh Bonnet?  I don't know all their names but all of those, you know, mail order food services. And the only way that we can stay relevant in that market is by adhering to our values.

And you know, Whole Foods and Tidal Creek share a lot of those, which is concern for the community, and that that's never going to go out of fashion, that's never going to die. And so, that's what we have to focus on to stay connected to-I don't use the word consumer-to stay connected to the people in our community.

Chelsea: There's a nice environmental piece to this too, which I loved when Shayla sent me the e-mail kind of spelling out this system and how it was going to work. A lot of folks are buying throw-away, recyclable water bottles. You know, like, they want clean water but they're not really sure how it works, they don't know how to do it. Maybe they can't go in and fill up jugs, you know, which is what we're hoping to to help with. And so this system will hopefully reduce the number of single use plastic bottles that are getting purchased and in effect help our environment, which is another value that we both share.

Transcription assistance from PopUpArchive & Lindsay Wright