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Local Comes Home in Pittsburgh

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As if channel blurring and a recession weren’t enough, how do you compete against a rival who doesn’t even have a store?

Supermarkets in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area will find out soon enough as GoodApples.org, the “Virtual Farmers Market,” begins making home deliveries to subscribers throughout western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia, western New York and Virginia. Delivery charges will run $6.95 on orders over $60.

goodapples_300.jpgFounded in 2005, GoodApples started out handling corporate orders and on-site pickups. Since then, it’s grown to become the largest online grocer in Pennsylvania, with more than 30 employees (order pickers are called Perfectionists) and a fleet of delivery and transport vehicles. The site offers a variety of fresh foods, and whenever possible, the items are locally grown and produced.

Founder John McClelland told e-magazine Pop City that, while the economy has slowed business a bit, the company continues to grow with 2008 revenues of $2.5 million, more than double the year before. McClellan, a veteran of the software industry, developed a just-in-time ordering system that maximizes the fresh aspect of the foods ordered.

The supermarket industry operates under a different model, but there are a few lessons here. One, people love fresh and local and remain willing to pay for it; and two, they’re willing to shop online for fresh foods — if they trust the seller. GoodApples, which appends product descriptions with a wealth of nutrition and health information, offers a 200% no-questions-asked “quality satisfaction guarantee.”

That’s pretty convincing, don’t you think?

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