What do you do when you are out of bread or milk? Most of us run to the grocery store or call a good neighbor. Here at Springmoor, the grocery store and a good neighbor are one in the same! The community of volunteers that run the store are a reward for everyone here.
Springmoor residents and husband and wife, Emily Castrodale and Bob McGaffin, have been managing The Little Corner Store, an on-campus convenience store, for the past six and a half years. The store provides a great service for their neighbors at Springmoor. Bob and Emily, along with a long list of volunteers, keep the store stocked with everyday essentials and speciality items. The pricing is the same as what you can find in the nearest grocery store.
A volunteer-based staff helps run the store. The extraordinary team handles everything at the store from scheduling, staffing, purchasing and restocking. Neighbors helping neighbors is what makes the McGaffins so dedicated to this part of their community. They were both quick to say that the rewards outweigh the volunteer hours. The fun is the challenge of running things smoothly, the new grocery requests and spending time with their fellow residents and the staff. “The payback is great!” says Bob.
Emily had often worked at The Little Corner Store. With a background in retail, she was also willing to keep track of the volunteer schedule. Now a 23-year resident of Springmoor, she has found this is great way to help the community. Visiting with her neighbors and finding the right mix of products for the store is what first intrigued her about the job.
On the other hand, Bob, a retired IBMer, was familiar with systems, spreadsheets and purchasing. He was asked to join the team and help another Springmoor resident do the weekly shopping for the store. The list is 13 pages long with 364 items. Yes, 13 pages! Ask an IBM trained man to make a grocery list and you will get a very detailed spreadsheet.
The Stocking System
The Little Corner Store has made many changes since Emily and Bob started working there and now they have developed quite an inventory of necessities. As things have progressed, the system for running the store has become quite complex. The spreadsheet is sorted each week by the grocery store aisle number where it is located and by product. Each item on the list is also marked with the shelf location, inventory quantity and restocking needs.
The recent announcement of the Kroger closing has given them a new challenge this month. The convenience store team has been shopping at Kroger since the beginning. The spreadsheets were marked with Kroger aisles and shelf locations. The hunt began for a new vendor as Emily and Bob have begun comparing prices and products at other nearby stores. Raleigh is filled with grocery store competition! After several weeks, they have found a wonderful new store manager at the Strickland Road Food Lion willing to help with all of our needs. He is willing to work with Springmoor to order our list of speciality items as well as our staples.
Every Saturday morning at 7:45am, Bob and another Springmoor volunteer head to the grocery store, their first stop of the day. They fill up the first cart with bottled water, sport drinks, soft drinks and toilet paper. This cart is rolled to the front and then, with lists in hand, they head to the opposite ends of the store. One is responsible for the list sorted from aisle 1-19 and the other one takes the list sorted from aisle 19-1. They meet in the middle. With three or four full carts, they check out and head back to Springmoor.
Once everything is packed-up in the car, they call the Springmoor front desk to let them know they are on the way. Resident volunteers and the security staff are ready to help unload the car and price each item. With the store receipt in hand, each item is marked with the price that the grocery store has charged them. If an item is on sale that week, the savings are passed along to residents.
With pricing finished, Emily and Bob head out to another store for a few more items that they can’t always get at the first stop. During the week, the McGaffins check the newspaper for sale items and weekly specials to update the long list of grocery items. They check on the store’s inventory every night after dinner. If the store is running low on bread or milk, they will jump in the car and get more for the next day’s opening.
Every two to three weeks, the two make a run to Sam’s Club for larger bulk purchases, including chocolate, candy, snack foods, batteries and light bulbs. They have devised a few ways to repackage the larger packaged quantities into something more manageable, all while passing along the savings to the store’s customers.
There are numerous volunteers who help with store duties, from purchasing an assortment of birthday and get-well cards to pricing and stocking the new grocery items. The cashiers, many whom have been working for years, don’t want to give up their spot on the monthly rotation list. Located at the front of North Village, the store is in a central location and saying hello to neighbors is fun for everyone. There are a few residents who have come full circle. Starting their first job at the local grocery store when they were teenagers, they have found themselves back at the store again as a retiree.
Employees as well as the residents benefit from having The Little Corner Store. A mid-morning break to grab a snack or a late breakfast bar fills the store with activity each day. Open only from 9:30am to noon, some customers, both residents and staff, come with a long list in their hand while others simply drop-in to pick up a loaf of bread or a birthday card.
Emily and Bob make quite a team – IBM training, 20 years of retail experience, plus a lot of dedication make for the perfect combination! The rewards of volunteering at the store are priceless to the McGaffins and the entire team of dedicated volunteers.
If you would like to learn more about all the amenities that Springmoor has to offer, we invite you to call 919-234-7626 to schedule a tour soon.
This article has been updated since its original publication in September 2015.