Thirty years ago, while living in Pullman, Chuck Block took notice of a college kid who worked a delivery route for a local dairy. On Saturday mornings, the kid was up early, loading his pickup with bottles of milk and then weaving his way through the county to deliver to a huge list of customers. Chuck thought it was a brilliant idea.
“The milk was as fresh as you could get it, and I thought, someday, when I get out of the information technology business, having a delivery service might be an interesting thing to do,” he said. “I felt it would be more personable than sitting at a desk all day.”
This May, after an early retirement, he finally realized that dream, and opened Sound Harvest Delivery with his son David
Block by his side.
“The timing was finally right,” Chuck said. “Of course, it’s a lot more complicated now. We can’t just throw the milk in the pickup and go. It takes a little more work.”
Chuck and David aren’t your ordinary milkmen. To start their delivery business, they first had to find software that would accommodate recurring and single orders for their products, and then build the business plan around that. Then they had to find a truck, which they said was a miracle in itself.
“We started talking about our options, and looking on Craigslist,” Chuck said, “And, lo and behold, there it was. A dairy delivery business in Woodinville was selling their refrigerated truck. It was exactly what we needed.”
Now, their internet-based delivery service caters to the customer and offers a variety of more than 250 different products from local handpicked vendors. “When we decided to do this, we went out and started talking to people about offering their products, and they were incredibly receptive to the idea,” Chuck said. “They were excited about being able to connect consumers with locally-grown, locally-sourced products.”
They started with Twinbrook Creamery in Lynden, and soon gathered Appel Farms and Grace Harbor Farms under their umbrella. But when a customer asked if they could start supplying supplements from Barlean’s Fishery, it expanded the company in a whole new direction. “Barlean’s actually came to us and asked if we could start also distributing their frozen fish products through our service,” Chuck said. “Because we don’t have a storefront and deliver on demand, we can list their entire inventory. We decided it would be a good fit.”
Now the small family-owned business sells everything from raw milk to scallops and farm fresh eggs in their online store.
The whole goal, Chuck said, is to make it as easy as possible to get access to pure, healthy products.
“It’s the basic things that drive you to the market,” Chuck said. “Staples like milk and bread. If we can save someone from having to go out on a Saturday to the market, then it’s one less trip they have to make.”
“We have a lot of husbands who say they’re tired of stopping at the grocery store on the way home for milk,” David added. “They’re really quick to sign up for the service.”
David said Whatcom County has been a prime place to set up shop, because of the high value residents place on local products and local businesses. “There are a lot of people who are from Seattle or California and are used to the idea of home delivery,” Chuck said. “It’s really not about us, we’re just the distributors with great products.”
From the get-go, they decided it was important to put a personal touch on their work. “This day and age, when you’re dealing with large businesses, there are a lot of instances where you don’t even know the owner,” Chuck said. “It was really important
for us to have a relationship with both the people we are serving and our distributors.”
To achieve that, they handpicked their vendors and they don’t make their deliveries at the crack of dawn. “We are picking up directly from our distributors and never keeping anything for more than 24 hours,” Chuck said. “Basically, we’re doing the run-around for everyone else. It’s the best way to control freshness from point A to B. It’s a short transit with no time on the shelf so the product lasts longer.”
“Delivering later gives us the chance to actually talk with people. We get to build a rapport and see how we can meet their needs,” David said. “It’s fun to see how people are doing from week to week. We’re really eager to bring back the level of service that is missing from today’s business culture.”
Sound Harvest Delivery delivers both residentially and commercially. There’s a $15 minimum with a $4.99 delivery fee. “It’s really not hard to meet the minimum,” David said. “Most of our orders are in the $35 to $60 range.” There is no registration or buy-in fee, and once an order reaches $50, delivery is free.
“We’re not here to compete with organizations like Acme [a local CSA],” Chuck Block said. “We’re trying to fill the gap where they leave off.”
Products are delivered on Thursdays and the business has routes across most of Whatcom County, with the exceptions of Sandy Point, Point Roberts and Lummi Island. “I love seeing the business blossom and grow,” David said. “It’s been a great opportunity to see a business start from ground zero.”
For more information, visit soundharvestdelivery.com.