Olympia’s Ralph’s And Bayview Thriftway Stores Offer A Bounty Of Best-You-Can-Find Produce – Plus Weekly Produce Happy Hour



Ralph’s Thriftway and Bayview Thriftway stores anchor the western and eastern edges of downtown Olympia, bringing high-quality grocery items – from produce and deli delights to baked goods and fabulous wines – alongside fantastic customer service and a dedication to our community.

Trevor DeWispelaere is the produce manager at both stores, generally spending his workday mornings at Bayview Thriftway, and then driving up the Fourth Avenue hill to Ralph’s Thriftway in the afternoons.

DeWispelaere has been in the grocery industry for more than 20 years, and with Thriftway owner Stormans for ten.

“It’s in my family,” he says of the grocery business. “My dad has been in it for more than 40 years and I have two uncles in it. My grandfather was a meat cutter.”

DeWisplaere clearly has a passion for – and encyclopedic knowledge of – produce.

“Produce is always changing,” says DeWispelaere, “with the seasons, new products, and new ways of doing things. That’s enticing to me.”

Through the years, DeWispelaere has established fantastic business contacts, and says this is key to his successfully stocking the highest quality, best tasting produce.

“If you don’t have a good relationship with your vendors,” he says, “you’re not going to get the primetime stuff.”

DeWispelaere’s sweeping knowledge and clear enthusiasm for his product is also important.

“You start to know what varieties are good to get in and which are the right items to push at the right time of the season,” he says. “You can’t just push oranges all year round, because there’s downtime.”

That holds true for every fruit, of course.

DeWispelaere’s philosophy is simple: He won’t buy it for the stores if he wouldn’t take it home to his family.

“You have to know when to get in and go strong, because it eats good,” he says. “Or to say, okay, it’s time to get out. Because the last thing we want is for somebody to get something home and not have it be what they expected and paid for.”

DeWispelaere feels fortunate to work for Stormans, a local company, which gives him the autonomy to choose what he believes works (and tastes) best.

“I can’t say enough good things about Stormans and working for a locally owned company.  They support the community in a huge way,” DeWispelaere says. “I see all the good things. I enjoy being able to contribute to that, as well.”

“I’m fortunate enough to have owners that let me do my stuff,” he says. “I have the ability to say yea or nay to what I want to carry – and I think that gets lost in big business.”

It’s not uncommon for large chain grocery stores to hire produce managers who are given product that might work in Texas, but won’t work at all here in Washington.

DeWispelaere says he won’t carry anything unless it tastes good, which is what you’d like to expect at any grocer. But who hasn’t experienced an inexpensive – and utterly tasteless – tomato purchased from a “big box” shop?

“I don’t go by price, necessarily,” DeWispelaere says about his decision-making process when procuring produce. “I’m not going to bring in something and give it away for a buck, but have it taste like it’s ten cents. That doesn’t work for me.”

For example, he says, people this time of year see strawberry sales at rock-bottom prices in other stores. “People will see them for a dollar a container somewhere,” he says, “but they buy them and bring them home and they taste horrible.”

DeWispelaere feels he can compete on quality.

DeWispelaere stocks a mix of produce from local and regional suppliers, which he admits can be a touchy subject. He stresses how important buying local is to him and his store, but also readily admits that quality wins out over locality in many cases.

“Year-round, we buy white button and crimini mushrooms from Ostrom’s Mushroom Farm. They’re local here,” he says. “We support the heck out of those guys.”

And when the chanterelle mushroom season comes around in late summer and into the fall, DeWispelaere looks to local Mainstream Mushrooms.

The primary local farmer DeWispelaere enjoys working with is Kirsop Farms. “They really take care of us and do a fantastic job,” he says.

DeWispelaere deals primarily with two to three suppliers: two in Seattle and one in Oregon. His produce originates from everywhere, primarily from California and Mexico.

Produce Happy Hour has become a very popular event at both stores. Every Tuesday from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., a selection of 10 to 15 produce items – carefully chosen by DeWispelaere – is sampled and offered at 50 percent off the usual retail price.

“We wanted to figure out a way to reward people who choose to stop at our stores,” he says.

DeWispelaere says the stores sometimes have an image of being more expensive than competitors. “But we really aren’t,” he says. “We’re very competitive.”

During the Produce Happy Hours, he and his team introduce customers to items they may have never tried, such as mini-watermelons, temptation melon – “I call that the bubblegum melon, because that’s what they taste like. They’re so good.” – yellow nectarines, organic broccolini, rainbow chard, and much more.

For DeWispelaere, the exciting part is educating his customers and getting them excited about new fruits and vegetables.

“For example, most people would see an orange flesh honeydew melon and the price and they’d just walk by – because they don’t know what it is and they don’t know what it tastes like,” he says.

“We’ll cut up a bunch of melons and sample them out,” he continues, “and once you try that melon, you buy it because it’s so darn good.”

The program has been a big success. “It gives us a way to uniquely educate our customers and give them great food.”

And it all ties into what’s most important to DeWispelaere: making a large variety of quality produce available to his customers.

“We hear a lot of ‘Wow!’ when they try it,” he says of the samples during Produce Happy Hour. “That’s the cool thing. You’re educating people that there are more things out there than just a red delicious apple.”

Ralph’s Thriftway

1908 4th Ave East

Olympia, WA 98506


Bayview Thriftway

516 4th Ave East

Olympia, WA 98506

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