It’s not every day that you get the chance to work at one of your favorite companies. When Becky Wright was presented with the opportunity to join the team at Earth Fare, where she was already a loyal customer, she happily accepted the position of VP of construction.
“Earth Fare aligns very nicely with my beliefs,” Wright explains. “I believe in the concept, as a mother and as a healthy person.”
The health and wellness supermarket chain with 53 locations across the South and Midwest is headquartered in Wright’s home of Asheville, North Carolina. Originally known as Dinner for the Earth when it was only providing a small selection of natural foods, the company expanded to a full-service grocery store in the early 1990s and is now one the largest natural and organic food retailers in the US.
Wright’s background is in retail construction, so bringing her skills to an environment that upheld her values was the opportunity of a lifetime. “To be able to be instrumental in the company’s growth model, expanding into new markets and bringing our concept of healthy living to newer markets, has been really exciting,” she says.
The concept of healthy living that Wright refers to is the “Live Longer with Earth Fare” Food Philosophy. While that brand promise was officially launched in 2017, the particular philosophy that forbids hundreds of harmful chemicals and ingredients from making their way onto their shelves has been in place for much longer. All products sold are free of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial fats and trans fats, artificial colors, artificial preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and bleached or bromated flour, and are never administered antibiotics or growth hormones.
“As a healthy eater, and especially as a mom, I don’t have to read the labels at Earth Fare—I know there’s nothing in the store that is going to be an unhealthy choice for our family,” Wright explains. “Many of us have come to the conclusion in this day and age that what you put in your body is important, and to be able to align that with what I do for a living has been incredibly valuable.”
Wright’s role at Earth Fare is expansive and touches many aspects of the business.
“I’m fortunate enough to manage everybody from a refrigeration tech all the way through a licensed architect,” she says. “I really get to see all the pieces from the ground up.” Her team comprises grocery and retail professionals, architects, field maintenance techs, project construction managers, a design team, and more. She also works closely with the vice presidents of operations and merchandising as well as the CEO of Earth Fare.
“It’s a very collaborative atmosphere here at Earth Fare,” Wright says. “We’re all intimately involved in each of our stores.”
That close involvement includes direct feedback from the communities Earth Fare serves. The organization sets up a community advisory board for most stores as they open their doors, which remain in place throughout the first few months to help the location acclimate effectively to its new neighborhood. “Those groups come in and give us feedback about what our store can offer for each community,” Wright says, “and we’re responsible for translating that feedback into action. We want to exceed the expectations of the community.”
The many moving parts don’t faze Wright. “The commercial retail business is just not a nine-to-five job—most of our stores are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.” Because her team supports construction as well as repair and maintenance, it simply can’t be a clock-in, clock-out mentality. “All of my team has that commitment,” she says. “It’s not just the maintenance techs that get the phone calls. Sometimes it’s the design architects that are needed on weekends or after hours, or we want to walk through a store before opening to see it through the customer’s perspective.”
Yet her team’s work-life balance is extremely important to Wright. “I want to allow the team to commit fully to their jobs and work hard when we need them to work hard, but knowing that their needs will be addressed in their personal life with a little bit more focus,” she says. “I believe that a happier employee translates into a happier business model, which translates into higher customer satisfaction.”
Higher customer satisfaction seems to be no problem for Earth Fare, as the company is expanding by more than 50 stores in the near future to meet the demand for healthier options across the US. “People are eating healthier; people are paying more attention,” Wright says. “People are not eating as many processed foods. They’re thinking about what they’re putting in their bodies and how much rest they’re getting.” The trend is widely expanding, Wright says, and Earth Fare has been at the forefront of this thinking since its institution.
Earth Fare’s concept is not just about eating healthy, Wright says. It’s about living healthy, which also has an impact on her life. “That has to translate beyond your workplace to your personal life, your work life, volunteering in your community, or being involved in your kid’s school. All of that needs to be wrapped up into one life.”