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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Rosauers testing grocery delivery service from four stores

Ron Jarvey’s job has gotten busy since the first snow fell in Spokane.

Jarvey is one of a few Rosauers delivery drivers bringing food straight to people’s doorsteps. Since the first snowfall of the year, more customers have been willing to pay him to carry grocery bags up icy walkways.

“They would rather watch me fall than them,” he said, laughing.

For more than a decade, Rosauers contracted with a company called Delivery Boy to deliver groceries. But that company folded last August, prompting Rosauers to start an in-house delivery service.

Rosauers took over delivery immediately in 2015 and developed an online ordering system in May, but didn’t start advertising the service until recently, once most of the kinks were worked out.

Customers can order online or call in and pay with a credit, debit or food stamp card, or check on delivery. The order generates a printed list of groceries, with a name, aisle and barcode number for each item.

Rosausers CEO Jeff Philipps is unaware of any other local store delivering groceries, though Fred Meyer will provide curbside pickup.

There are some customers who are homebound, but many use the service because they are “time pressed,” he said.

Not having to shop can save customers a lot of time.

“If I spend $100, I’ll probably be in the store for about 45 minutes,” he said.

The Valley store that serves as Jarvey’s base is one of three that offer the service. The South Hill location on East 29th Avenue and the store near the North Division Y also have delivery drivers. Collectively, they serve an area extending north along Highway 395 to Handy Road, south to East 65th Avenue, east to Veradale and west to the Indian Trail area and the Spokane River.

Customers pay $7.95 for delivery, a rate that’s likely to increase to $9.95 once the service is more established, Philipps said. The delivery fee doesn’t cover Rosauers full cost for gas plus the shopper and driver’s time, but the increased grocery sales make the service pay off.

At the Spokane Valley Rosauers, Garret Fox, another worker, usually does the shopping, though Jarvey sometimes helps out when there are multiple orders.

The pair roamed the store on a Thursday morning last week, picking out rib roasts, sour cream, frozen mashed potatoes, lemons and more for customers. Just after 11 a.m., Jarvey set out for his first round of deliveries.

Jarvey’s first stop was a first-floor apartment in a Spokane Valley complex on Appleway Avenue. The recipient, Heather Dunlap, said she’s been using the delivery service for about a year.

She and her husband are both disabled and can’t get out to shop.

“Without delivery we’d be eating fast food and pizza,” she said.

Jarvey’s managers at the Spokane Valley store on East Sprague coaxed him out of retirement after he spent more than a decade working for Rosauers security following a law enforcement career. They offered him the delivery driver job, which he happily accepted.

“I just got really burnt out chasing stupid people,” he said of the career switch.

When a customer orders groceries, they select a two-hour delivery window. The first runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the latest from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Drivers won’t leave groceries on the porch, so customers need to be home or make arrangements with a neighbor.

Jarvey has regular customers who order from him as often as once a week. Some don’t or can’t leave the house much due to old age, disabilities or both. Others are simply too busy to shop for themselves.

By now, Jarvey knows the Valley well enough that he rarely has to look up an address. But when he takes food to a new customer, he relies on an iPhone provided by Rosauers.

“Siri and I are on a first name basis,” he said after thanking the Apple virtual assistant for navigating him to a house on a far-flung cul de sac.

Philipps said the Spokane delivery service is a market test to see how it performs.

“If we determine it’s successful enough to do in other markets we will do that,” he said.

The company averages about 40 deliveries a day, Philipps said.

As his last stop of the morning, Jarvey carries the groceries inside an apartment and puts them on the counter. He stops to ask the customer, a regular, about his Christmas plans and family.

“This really is a fun job. You meet some of the neatest people. You just get a good feeling by being able to help them out,” Jarvey said.

Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.

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