Grocery delivery expands on campus

Gopher Grocery now offers more products and has more delivery vans than it did a year ago.

Kelly Gulbrandson

Busy college students have to balance school, homework and personal lives, often leaving little time for grocery shopping.

Gopher Grocery, an online grocery shopping and delivery service, made its first delivery in February 2006 to help ease this problem, and is now expanding business because of its successes.

Owner Billy Orkin said his service currently offers 8,000 items instead of the 1,500 it started with, and he plans to expand to 10,000 items within the next six months.

Orkin also said the company added a new fleet of vans last week to accommodate the increased amount of business.

Keeping their prices the same as other grocery stores and delivering to the customer’s door are two reasons for the company’s success, he said.

Jean Kinsey, an applied economics professor and director of The Food Industry Center at the University, said online grocery stores’ business will grow slowly, but won’t have a major impact on traditional grocery stores.

The height of the online grocery store movement was in 2002, Kinsey said, but most didn’t survive because the market is limited.

She said traditional stores also go through struggles attracting customers.

“It will be hard to predict the grocery store of the future,” she said. “But I don’t see online stores as the wave of the future.”

A disadvantage of online grocery delivery services is customers often have to be home to accept the delivery unless it can be otherwise arranged, Kinsey said.

Some students said Simon Delivers, another online grocery service that delivers in the metro area, doesn’t go to a person’s individual apartment as Gopher Grocery does, but only to the front of the building.

Gopher Grocery has a $2 delivery charge for all orders, while Simon Delivers charges $8 for orders over $50 and almost $10 for orders under that, according to the Simon Delivers Web site.

Statistics senior Katie Nondahl said she uses Gopher Grocery because of the wide selection.

She said she has used another delivery service – Byerly’s – but was unhappy with it.

“They charged me $8 for delivery and left the food outside my door because he couldn’t find my apartment,” Nondahl said.

She said she uses Gopher Grocery more this year because of its expanded selection of products.

First-year elementary education student Brittany O’Connor said she and her roommate were going to use Gopher Grocery last week but the Web site was down.

Psychology senior Matt Schwer said he uses the service because he doesn’t have a car and can’t rely on someone taking him to the grocery store.

“You can get fresh meat, milk, fruits, vegetables there but also cleaning supplies and other things a student might need,” Schwer said.

He also said smaller, local markets have higher prices.

Elementary education senior Tabatha Frigge said she hasn’t used Gopher Grocery or other delivery services to grocery shop.

“I like the experience of going to the grocery store to buy things I need,” she said.

Frigge said she usually goes to an off-campus grocery store once a week.

Orkin said he thinks this service changes the game of grocery shopping.

“Customers’ eyes light up and are surprised when we come straight to the door,” he said.