After 12 years of off-Island ownership, Vashon Market is again in local hands.
Shawn and Kathy Hoffman, Islanders with deep roots on Vashon, took ownership of the grocery store on Saturday — and spent the day cleaning, purging products with past-due dates and gearing up for what they say will be a fresh start for the longtime establishment.
The Hoffmans have owned Vashon Plaza, the strip of shops that the grocery store has long anchored, since 2005. In an interview at the store on Saturday, shortly after signing the documents that sealed the deal, they said ownership of the grocery store seemed like the next logical step for them, now that their two children are grown and out of the home.
It will also be good for the store, they said.
Vashon Market had been owned by Don Stolz, a Gig Harbor businessman with four other stores to his name, for the past dozen years. During negotiations for a new lease, the Hoffmans and Stolz were finding it difficult to come to terms.
“We wanted someone interested in the community,” Shawn Hoffman said.
Now, the couple is already discussing ways they’ll use their ownership to promote local causes and add vibrancy to their corner of town, transforming the large parking lot into a public venue for occasional events. They also say the store will undergo a significant makeover, becoming what Shawn called “the Red Apple of Vashon Island,” a “value store” that will draw shoppers who now go off-Island to shop at places like Fred Meyer and Safeway.
“We’re going to try to give them the confidence that they can shop on-Island,” Shawn said.
The new store will be called Vashon Market Fresh IGA, an independently owned store that’s part of the Independent Grocers Alliance, a consortium that offers 215 IGA-label brands, its own distribution companies, shared marketing, training and other support, the Hoffmans said.
“It’s not a franchise. It’s more of a marketing group,” Shawn said.
The store was an IGA under Stolz as well, he added. But Stolz, whose other four stores were not IGA-affiliated, only carried one IGA product. “He just kept the name,” Shawn said.
The store wasn’t losing money under Stolz’s ownership, the Hoffmans added. Even so, they said, they also know it can become a busier and more vibrant place. They plan to make a number of changes — including stocking several new IGA-brand products, adding new displays, painting and design changes and even new cash registers and store uniforms.
“We want to clean up the store. We want to do everything we can to give it a better feel,” Shawn said.
The Hoffmans are keeping the entire staff, 17 full-time and part-time employees. Only the store’s former manager, Joe Aubrey, opted to leave; a non-Islander, he said he planned to work for a different store owned by Stoltz.
“We need all hands on deck,” Shawn added.
The store has had a long presence on Vashon. Built in 1959 by the Kimmel family, it was Vashon’s first and only supermarket until the 1970s, when Norm Mathews built Vashon Thriftway. It was eventually sold to the Becks, another Vashon family that owned it until Stolz bought the store.
For the last seven years, the Hoffmans have owned the small shopping complex where the store sits, working to fill some of the other storefronts that emptied during the course of the recession.
Now, with the Vashon Library slated to come in for a year during its remodel, other new ventures at the complex and their ownership of the grocery store, the Hoffmans say the small strip mall is close to being fully rented.
“It’s a great time for us to be doing this,” Shawn said.
Shawn was raised on Vashon and graduated from Vashon High School. He currently serves as the high school’s assistant basketball coach. Kathy is an engineer for PACCAR in Renton, a job she plans to keep.
The two said they’re excited to strengthen their connection to the community with their new business venture.
“We’re just happy to be a part of the community,” Shawn said.
“We want to be involved and give back,” added Kathy.