From unexpected beginnings to becoming a pillar of their community, Andra and John Mobley's journey exemplifies the essence of the independent grocer. With their steadfast commitment to outstanding customer service, a dedicated staff, and a passion for giving back, their Stevenson, Washington store, A&J Market, embodies the true spirit of the food industry. Recently, the Washington Food Industry Association (WFIA) honored that commitment and spirit by naming the Mobleys the 2022-23 Retailer of the Year recipients.
Presented at a surprise event at the store, the award recognizes the Mobleys' commitment to the prosperity, ethics, and image of the independent food industry and WFIA, along with their business leadership.
“Tucked away in one of the most scenic and beautiful communities of Washington, Andra and John Mobley have built a thriving business and become an integral part of the Stevenson community,” said Tammie Hetrick, President & CEO of WFIA. “A&J Market exemplifies the spirit of the independent grocer. Their dedication to both their staff and the community at large is reflected in everything they do. It is an honor to celebrate them and for all they do for this community.”
Although Andra grew up in the grocery industry – her father owned a store in Oregon – neither she nor John were planning to run a store, WFIA wrote. The two moved to Skamania County in 1995 and bought what was then known as Ann’s Food Fair. 28 years and one pandemic later, the couple has built a successful business.
It was not without hiccups, though. Andra remembers the first few years of grocery store ownership as “rough," as the Mobleys experienced several life events in a short time period.
“We moved, bought a business, and found out that we were expecting our first child, all within a few months,” Andra said. “I think we signed the agreement in spring of ’95, moved and took over in July of ‘95. And our daughter was born in December of ‘95. We had a baby business and a baby child.”
An Experienced Team
As the years went on, the couple gained more and more experience and are now seasoned veterans of the industry.
John handles operations and logistics while Andra handles financials and HR. The 16,000 sq. ft. store has experienced about six remodels or updates including a new sushi bar, new refrigeration, and new branding. But most importantly, they have continued to receive praise for outstanding customer service.
“We feel much more experienced than we were in 1995,” Andra said. “We've got a pretty good routine going, we've got good staff that's been here for a long time.”
Three of those staff members have been at A&J Market since it first opened. 12 team members have 10 or more years of service and eight team members have 20 or more years of service. Their strong employee retention is aided by the staff retirement plan, a 20% employee discount at the store, and periodic gatherings and parties hosted for the team.
A&J Market's new exterior.
In addition to prioritizing their staff's needs, the Mobleys are dedicated to giving back to their community. In 2014, the grocer started its own loyalty program, called “Item of the Week,” which kickstarted a charitable initiative.
“It morphed into the program that we have today, which is: for every $50 you spend, you get a receipt that will give you $1 off of your next purchase," Andra explained. "If a customer chooses not to do that, they can throw the receipt in a box. We will tabulate those at the end of the month and make a contribution to a designated organization like the school district foundation, emergency first responders, domestic violence organization, food banks, etc.”
This program has allowed A&J Market to donate $300,000 to their local community between 2014 and 2022.
Independent Grocers Alliance Member Values
A&J Market has been an Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA) member for five years. The IGA Minute eNewsletter and National Digital Ad are among Andra’s favorite program offerings.
“It was nice to see what was going on especially during the pandemic, when they were doing updates, workshops, strategies and that kind of thing," Andra said of the weekly newsletters. "It was comforting to know that everybody was kind of experiencing some of the same things.”
They have been a welcome addition to the Alliance, said IGA Area Director Doug Walter. “Andra and John Mobley’s dedication, leadership, and unwavering commitment to their community have set them apart as exceptional local grocery retailers. A&J Market exemplifies the characteristics that make a good local grocery retailer: outstanding customer service, a strong and loyal staff, community engagement, and a willingness to adapt to the changing needs and preferences of their customers. They are true champions of the independent food industry, and their success is well-deserved."
Andra and John Mobley's journey serves as a highlight reel of the best characteristics of an independent grocer, from their entrepreneurial spirit to their dedication to their team and community. Their passion, hard work, and a genuine desire to make a difference has turned a small business into a thriving enterprise, and their recent WFIA Retailer of the Year honor is well-deserved.