Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Swiss Farms: A Grocery with Universal Access and Appeal

For an idea that has been around since 1968, it was still a surprise how few people knew about Swiss Farm, a drive-thru grocery. When a location opened here in Charlotte in March of this year, a friend and I were there Opening Day, and have continued to shop there regularly.

Logo for Swiss Farms [Description: White rectangle with a rooster sitting on the letter 'I" in the word "Swiss" with the word "Farms" in green below it. Tag line "America's Drive-Thru Grocer" below that in red.
When you drive up, you spy a quaint brightly-painted barn-like building that doesn't look like very much at first, sitting between two newly-painted drive-thru lanes. Getting closer, you see rows and rows of products through clear glass walls and displays outside overflowing with impulse items, like chips and cold juices. What you can't see deeper into the store is the dairy case full of milk and other dairy products from a local farm in Asheville and the fully stocked kitchen run by a local chef. Hard to imagine that so much fits into so small a space, but Swiss Farms aims to please. The concept is simple. You don't have to get out of your car. Someone comes out to you with the latest circular, and with a smile, takes your order. Simple concept, and yet, Swiss Farms does this with such warmth and enthusiasm that I usually end up sitting in the car, chatting with everyone, hoping there is no one behind me.

Mike Lang, President of Swiss Farms Charlotte and head of Lang Family Farm [Description: Smiling gentleman standing in front of Swiss Farm building, located on Sardis Road, Charlotte, NC]
When the store first hit Charlotte, some people complained about how the store would encourage a  tendency toward laziness. It was written that this was a store for busy professionals and families on the go. But, Swiss Farms does more than just fill the need to shop quickly. Swiss Farms runs an efficient store without a large land acquisition, a larger carbon footprint and wasted resources. With competitive pricing and the ability to accept food stamps (a major coup for all those who may experience food insecurity), Swiss Farms brings down-home neighborliness to your local community; without the need to go into a big box store for a gallon of milk.
Flip Flop Wine - nicely priced at Swiss Farms [Description: Seven bottles of different wines from the Flip Flop Wine Company]
For many in the community of PwDs (persons with disabilities), this is a god-send. The thoughts from someone in that community could sound like this: "No, I don't have to hope the accessible parking spots are free. No, I don't have to hope the public scooters are working. No, I don't have to deal with trying to find what I'm looking for in this huge building with blocked aisles  and deal with people who don't like their job. I can have a great food shopping experience. I can get to know my local grocer (and his family!) on a first-name basis. I can make a late-night run for milk, munchies and wine (not necessarily in that order), and zip in and everyone else."

Two items certain people in my family cannot live without! Thank you, Doreen, for letting us know about them! [Description: Package of Jenkins Livermush and Taylor Pork Roll]
Media releases from the company website talk of more locations to come and the desire to work with each neighborhood to become part of the community. Mike Lang, president and head of Lang Family Farms, confirmed that each store was to have a local feeling, supporting the needs of the customers.

This is the essence of universal accessibility. Not catering to one group at the expense of another, Swiss Farms serves everyone.

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