Community Markets


The day has finally come! All staff has been sworn to secrecy for months, so I couldn't say anything until now. We have our Big Unveiling today. The company is changing its name. After fifteen years working for PCC Natural Markets, I now work for PCC Community Markets. That emphasis is unofficial, by the way. You can just say "PCC Community Markets" like a normal person.

I have no idea when the decision was first officially made. I, along with the rest of the office staff not involved in the rebranding decision making, have known since the Town Hall meeting we had on April 21. We were told then that "this doesn't leave the room," but we were presented with information in a very cool, fantastically transparent way.

Not only is our name changing, but we're unveiling a massive rebranding campaign. Unlike the rebranding that took place in 2003, less than a year after I was hired, which was done incrementally, this one occurred literally overnight. Chris J and I, for example, were the only two people in Merchandising in the office today until about 10 a.m. -- and after that only a few more came. Tons of office staff worked night shifts at the stores, to swap tons of things out for stuff with our new logo -- from staff aprons to tote bags to several PCC-branded products (perhaps most notably, a line of Vitamins, a line of milks, and the unveiling of a line of yogurts). A massively overhauled website went live just after midnight last night. There is a mural on the side of the Greenlake Aurora store that had our old logo, and it was to be painted with the new logo overnight as well. All this stuff is just the tip of the iceberg.

That meeting back in April, though, focused on the name change, and particularly the logo design. They went out of their way to show us where they started with the agency that was hired to help design it, and how they got from there to the design settled on. They did this to such a degree that we were given a PowerPoint presentation of all initial logo proposals, and subsequent ones, to see how it evolved into what we see today. It totally made sense and was genuinely exciting.

There is planned media coverage about this over the coming week, and I don't know if any of those articles will mention this -- I don't see it focused on in any way on the website, and I'm not sure there would be any need for it anyway. But there was a specific explanation given for the shape of the letters in our new logo: the tall, thin P and tall, thin C on either side of the middle C being much larger and rounder. Two things about that: the respective shapes give the vague evocation of a table place setting -- plate and silverware on either side. And also, that large C with the space inside it allows for lots of flexibility for putting either text or a wide range of graphics in the middle of it.

As for the details of the unveiling of all this today, and how it was all planned and executed -- this was a massive effort -- that was shared with us at our last Town Hall meeting, last Friday. I was so truly impressed by it all, I confessed to Nancy T while eating our provided lunch at the meeting that, although the move to this new office location last year is hands down the most exciting thing to happen in all the fifteen years I have worked here, I think this comes in second.

I did wonder the other day if I ever wrote anything about the previous rebranding, once I figured out it had occurred in 2003 and I was hired the previous year. As it turns out, I did -- on April 10, 2003. I had been working here eight months. I wrote:

We had an all-office staff meeting this morning, promptly at 8:00. Rather early, I thought, but still later than I ever get here (Shauna was rather proud of herself -- "I beat you today!").

I've been at two staff meetings now, and if they're all like this, I'm going to always be looking forward to them. Not only do they tend to include free food, but they are always very positive, and renew my deep pride in this company. PCC actually does some really great things.

We're in the midst of a branding campaign, most of which is scheduled to be visible publicly by the end of the month -- the new sign is already up on the West Seattle store. People who go to their local store don't tend to realize that there are other stores around the area, and now we're going to have some very visible continuity. Our new logo is very cool, I think. I don't have an image to link to at the moment, but I probably will eventually. I'm sure you'll be waiting with bated breath.

I never wear my name tag, but I'll be getting a new one anyway -- the design I chose, out of about nine of them, is of a white cat on a blue background. It will just hang on the outside of my cubicle like the old one.

Tracy, our CEO, told us about when he asked one of the store directors why we have salmon that costs three times as much as the salmon at conventional grocery stores. This was where he got some more information about natural foods -- people prefer different color salmon, and so regular grocery stores sell salmon caught in very environmentally unsound manners that have been fed color pellets.


I don't eat meat anyway, but that still makes fish sound even less appetizing to me.

I shared that with Mimi via email on Tuesday. She wrote back, in part, "Thank you for sharing this documentation of our history, and of yours." And suddenly I realized that, even though plenty of people (like Mimi, or Nancy) have been here decades longer than I have, even at 15 years I am now a part of this company's long history.


So anyway. The last rebranding was 14 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. Perhaps most notably, as CEO Cate mentions in her public letter about all this, the connotations of the word "natural" -- a big part of why we removed it: " The word 'natural' remains undefined by regulators and, as a result, is overused, diluted and less impactful."

That same letter begins by noting that the name had previously been changed in 1998. "PCC" has always come from the original company name, "Puget Consumers Co-op," but I guess it was officially changed to "PCC Natural Markets" in 1998 -- only four years before I started. I even have a picture of Batty wearing a PCC hat from 2002, making it from two logos ago, when it still evoked a design used when "Puget Consumers Co-op" was still in use.

Although we haven't revered to spelling out "Co-op" in the name, the use of "Community" is meant to bring focus back to that, which should please some of our customers. A lot of the decisions made about this stem from months of actual market research, right down to asking shoppers (of both our stores and of people who never heard of us, though the former were obviously given more weight) about the things most important to them.

I seem to be one of few people with almost no direct involvement in any of this. Merchandisers in each department have had a direct hand in a whole lot. Scott, for example, worked closely with the local vendor who will produce our PCC branded yogurt -- as he had with the PCC Milk. He's flying to Baltimore today to attend Expo East, a conference for natural foods retailers -- his first time going to the East one instead of just Expo West, which happens annually in Anaheim -- and that's directly after pulling an all-nighter in the stores.

Especially in the Grocery department, I have become the one Essential Office Staffer -- whatever is going on that pulls office staff to the stores, some staff is still needed at the office, to support store item data needs. This very much works for me, as I never, ever want to work on the floor in any store for any reason and I never have. I spent years feeling like I barely got out of it, but these days the general consensus seems to be that if there is anyone the stores need to have available at the office, it's me. In other words, the most challenging part of this transition for me personally will simply to break the fifteen-year habit of calling the place I work at "PCC Natural Markets" and switching to "PCC Community Markets."

I do still take part in some social media responses, I guess. But that's an even smaller part of my job than it used to be; I used to respond to more generalized questions, which now go to Kelly in HR, and questions posed to me are now exclusive to product questions. I did field a question this morning about an illustration of a salmon that PCC posted the other day, telling people to "swim into our stores" on 9/13 -- and a customer decided to be a stickler and say the illustrated salmon was from the Atlantic. (I was later told it's a picture of a local salmon, although exactly what species still seems slightly unclear.)

Honestly I thought today would be more eventful than it has been so far. I suppose I shouldn't be that surprised since most staff who worked all night are sleeping now. I'm looking forward to visiting a store to see how things look. Store signs will be replaced in a while; that was one of the things that couldn't be done today specifically -- but as I said, all other store-branded stuff has the new logo as of today. We have a Chinook Book coupon for a free PCC tote bag, which Shobhit has been wanting to redeem for months, and I've kept having to tell him we need to wait. I want to use it for one of the new totes!

I do love the new website, by the way. Check out the page about our Board of Trustees. See the photo, of the ten-member Board? There in the middle -- that's Elin! She was the one who trained me when I was hired in 2002. She was at my wedding. She retired last year but subsequently ran to get on the Board, at Cate's very sensible suggestion. I hardly ever get to see her anymore, even when she's in the office for Board meetings, but at least I still get fleeting hellos and waves every now and then. Elin will always mean a great deal to me. But, as with many people of Elin's stature, I am hardly the only one.

The same goes with how much PCC means to me overall, come to think of it. How much this place means to me really cannot be understated. Nothing else has done more to ensure the quality of life I enjoy today.

I also really like the stores pages -- the site goes out of its way to characterize how each store is unique, and has a unique place in its own neighborhood. It goes right down to easily-found store hours and high traffic times, and even quotes from each Store Director about their store, along with plenty of other stuff. Other chain store website don't do that. My primary store for shopping, by the way, was PCC Fremont between 2002 and 2014, until PCC Greenlake Village opened in 2014 and its proximity to the freeway made it more quickly accessible from Capitol Hill, even though as the crow flies it's further away. (Bothell, by the way, which opened last year and is now the store farthest away from my home, remains the only store I have yet to visit. Scott has said more than once that sometime when he's driving up there during work he can take me so I can see it, but it hasn't happened yet.)

I have a lot more exploring to do on the website. There are several billboards planned, and one in particular I'll want to go get a picture of -- that was among the stuff shared with us at last week's meeting. I'm sure we'll get some customers who are uptight about the changes and complain; we always do. But I expect the customer response to be overwhelmingly positive. It certainly has been from staff so far. I find it all truly impressive and it's just the latest in a long line of reasons I feel proud to work here.