The dueling speeches inside and outside the New Seasons Market store as it opened in Ballard on Wednesday painted dramatically different pictures of the Portland-based grocer.
The dueling speeches inside and outside the New Seasons Market store as it opened in Ballard Wednesday painted dramatically different pictures of the Portland-based grocer, and highlighted a broader struggle roiling Seattle’s business and political scenes.
Inside, store employees touted the partnerships they’ve formed with local social-service groups and Pacific Northwest vendors, highlighting condiments from Ballard-based Mustard & Co. and lamb from Reister Farms in Washougal, Clark County, which share space in the store with national brands such as Cheerios and Coke. The company gives 10 percent of its profit to charitable causes and compensates employees for volunteer time, executives said as part of a “bread breaking” ceremony to open the store, New Seasons’ second in the Seattle area.
Outside, labor and community groups criticized New Seasons for its labor practices and the gentrification that often follows the opening of high-end grocers.
Marty Hernandez, a New Seasons worker from Portland involved in a union organizing effort, took to a stage set up in the back of a pickup to implore the company to improve worker treatment.
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“Just live up to your core principles,” Hernandez said.
Asked why she was here for the store opening, Hernandez, who said she’d been injured on the job four times, said she was motivated by concern for new employees of the company where she’s worked for seven years. “They’re being told one thing and when reality hits, it’s going to be another and it’s not fair to them,” she said.
New Seasons employs 150 people at the new store at 951 N.W. Ballard Way, many of whom live in the neighborhood, said store manager Kerri Hunsley. “We’re super-proud to be here in the neighborhood.”
The company opened its first local store on Mercer Island in 2016, and has announced plans for another in the Central District. In February it backed off a planned expansion into California and closed one store there.
Eric and Vanessa Farrington came in to the store for pastries and coffee to check out how it stacks up to the likes of Whole Foods. They were curious about the protests outside but weren’t dissuaded.
“Obviously it didn’t stop us from coming inside,” Vanessa Farrington said while loading her basket with Kettle Chips.
The parking lot was overflowing by midmorning, sending shoppers and protesters looking for spots on the surrounding streets.
Within about a mile of New Seasons are outlets of QFC, Safeway, Ballard Market, Trader Joe’s, wholesaler Cash & Carry and Fred Meyer. There’s also an Amazon Fresh pickup site, and plans for a PCC Community Market in the under-construction Ballard Blocks 2 development.