Unquestionably one of the most favorably known stores in our region would be Pilgrim’s Market located at 1316 North 4th Street in Coeur d’Alene. Their renown is not only for the quality of their natural foods and nutrition, but also for their friendly and knowledgeable staff. As you will soon learn, your exceptional experience with Pilgrim’s is intentionally planned, leaving nothing to chance and is reflective of the genius of the owners, Joe and Sarah Hamilton.
Faithful to their desire to “make a difference while making a living,” Joe and Sarah decided to open their store in Coeur d’Alene. They chose this community because they believed that the natural beauty of the lakes and forests along with the culture and outdoor lifestyle of Coeur d’Alene would be the perfect place to share their passion for natural foods and socially-responsible living.
Ahead of the trend and long before “organic” and “natural” foods were buzzwords, they started with a small 1,200 square foot store in 1998. Their plan was not only to offer nutritional supplements but a full array of wholesome and natural foods. Apparently this was a concept that resonated with the community by way of support. A year later, they moved across the street to their current location with 4,000 square feet and gradually added more health conscious foods and services. Continued consumer support allowed for a gradual annexation of space over the next 8 years resulting in the 25,000 square feet they now enjoy. In their own words, they “went for it.”
Part of their success stems from the fact that Pilgrim’s is a store that provides everything from fresh organic produce to gourmet cheese, beer, wine, bulk foods, meat, deli foods, and supplements, which is a convenience for those shoppers who value healthy food. In short, they filled a need for a growing segment of consumers who are interested in living a healthy lifestyle.
Joe also attributes their success in large part to the many passionate and skilled managers that lead the entire team of contributing employees in the Pilgrim’s Market family. When you enter Pilgrim’s, you immediately feel a warmth and friendliness that reminds you of home and family. The employees are kind and eager to provide you with whatever you seek. It’s like each employee has ownership the store and truly wants you to have a good experience. This is neither a mistake, nor is it an accident, but rather the result of how Pilgrim’s employees are trained and cultivated to take personal ownership of their positions. Herein lies the genius of Pilgrim’s, and it is a lesson worthy of duplication by any business with employees.
Where most businesses hire employees who have little or no understanding of how a business is run, let alone what their specific job description might entail, at Pilgrim’s each employee is not only acutely aware of their personal responsibilities, but they are taught how the whole of Pilgrim’s is run along with knowledge of their financials.
Pilgrim’s has adopted and incorporated an “Open Book” methodology originally developed by Jack Stack, author of book “The Great Game of Business”, back in the early 80s when he was trying to save a failing division of International Harvester and 119 jobs. Jack originally started by sharing the financials so that the employees knew what had to be done to save their division, and it worked. Eventually his system evolved into teaching his employees the “rules” of business.
This is exactly what Pilgrim’s does. Each employee not only knows their job but also all of the other jobs needed to run the store. They are considered a team that can quickly transition to whatever is required of them to keep the store running efficiently. Their knowledge of the financials enables them to take ownership and ensure the financial success of the store.
This philosophy may sound invasive, but the fact is this: it works, and all you need to do is visit Pilgrim’s to discover for yourself the validity of the program. There’s no doubt that each employee you meet feels empowered and is taking ownership of the part they play. Though Joe feels that this philosophy may not work for a small business with only a few employees, in a community where employees feel that they’re nothing more than a number and feel little empowerment, a conscientious employer looking to turn their business around might find value in this system.
Pilgrim’s Market is a proud natural grocer that is still an independent and locally-owned business. “Not only are we a local business, we also put emphasis on local products and choose to work with other local businesses to meet our business needs.”
Joe will be our guest speaker at our monthly Heart of Business Luncheon held at the Greenbriar Inn, 315 Wallace in Coeur d’Alene on the 19th of April from 11:30am to 1pm. Open to all businesses, the cost is $15 in advance or $20 at the door if seating is still available. RSVP is strongly suggested, 208.659.2726 or email@example.com.
- Nels Jensen