Chuck Eggert, the founder and owner of Basics Market, is a grocer’s grocer. Sitting down to talk about the opening of his new store in Tualatin, Eggert said he had been cutting corn the evening before and would be doing it again later that day.
The corn is to feed the cattle Eggert raises to provide beef for his stores. In the northern Willamette Valley, he owns farms spread over more than 2,000 acres and also partners with small family farms to provide the organic meat, milk, eggs, cheese, produce, jam and other products sold in Basics Markets.
Fresh is Basics Market’s buzzword, and Basics’ President Fernando Divina said, “Chuck’s idea is to tend the soil, plant the seeds, harvest the crop and bring it to market that day. We focus on keeping a small footprint with our farms around the northern valley. We milk the cows and breed the cattle, trying to create a model of what a market could be at less cost to the consumer. Every day we get closer.”
Eggert added, “Eggs go from the hen to the store in one day, milk goes from the cow to the store in one day. We have three organic dairies, and we are building a creamery in Butteville. We raise the chickens and the beef, and we grow the corn for the cows. We make a lot of our own cheeses.”
According to Divina, they are building a dairy at Rockridge near Champoeg that will be open to the public and feature farm animals, an interpretive area, cow milking and cheese making. “All our facilities are going in that direction,” he said.
Another key difference between Basics Market and other stores is the educational component. Basics Markets have a Ph.D. nutritionist on staff plus chefs on hand to create delectable and nutritious dishes and yes, provide recipes.
“Last year we developed 200 recipes that change with the seasons,” Eggert said. “We offer 50 to 60 different classes, with about one-third centered around improving health conditions like diabetes, and everything is free. In fact, we pay you to take the classes because you get a $5-off in-store coupon with a $25 purchase.”
Divina added, “Not only do people get recipes that taste great, but they leave with ideas for menus for the week. We offer our best prices all the time, and we usually feature what’s in season. In a 5,000-square-foot store, a good portion of the space is devoted to a teaching kitchen.”
Eggert noted, “The most popular classes are the ones you least expect.”
Prior to starting Basics Market, Eggert co-founded Pacific Foods in 1985 and sold the company that features organic soups and broths plus nondairy milks to Campbell Soup Company in 2017.
He became involved with the Faubion School in Northeast Portland, where most of the students are in the federal government free-lunch program and were often going hungry on weekends and during holidays. Eggert started sending the kids home with food he donated, which led to the opening of a small grocery store at the school, which was the original Basics Market.
He opened a second Basics Market sharing the space with The Portland Clinic, at Northeast Sandy Boulevard and 50th, and now the long-awaited Tualatin store has opened. While the stores are smaller than traditional grocery stores, Eggert and Divina are confident that shoppers will find all the basics they need.
“Most people buy 30 things a month, but big grocery stores carry 50,000 items, and part of what customers are paying for is to keep all that inventory in the store,” Eggert said. “We wanted to keep things simple and supply the basic things people need. We don’t offer eight colors of beets. And bigger stores have 250 vendors in and out every week, while we try to minimize vendors. We deal directly with the farmers.”
The grocery business is changing in many ways, and Eggert and Divina are working to break the mold on the old methods and lead the charge into the future.
“Our whole thing is about creating a community of people,” Eggert said. “We want to provide the basics – cheese, eggs, dairy, meat and produce – along with good-value frozen, grab-and-go, and pantry items.”
Divina added, “Because we are producing the animal, we utilize the entire animal. Our cases represent that. Customers will see necks and good-value cuts and a huge selection of sausages. There is a lot going on in those cases.”
Eggert explained, “This whole waste thing – we try to design a system so we don’t waste anything. We use tiny trashcans, we compost, and we ask, how do we minimize waste? It starts with a smaller store.”
Basics Markets are not open on Sundays, “and that is very intentional,” Eggert said. “Most employees appreciate the stores being closed Sundays.”
Divina added, “We have cultivated a friendly group of employees, and Chuck has inspired us.”
A bit of Eggert’s personal life comes into play in the stores too. The stores sell Silver Sage Farms’ Buddy’s Formula oven-baked dog food named after Eggert’s 150-pound Landseer Buddy. “I wanted a dog I didn’t have to bend over to pet,” he said.
Eggert has based his businesses in Tualatin for years, starting with his Pacific Foods headquarters more than 30 years ago. The Basics Market offices are on Teton Avenue, but there is a lot more going behind the scenes. Also at this location are a creamery, USDA-approved meat-processing facility and dog food production.
“We basically control the entire production process of our products from the farm to the store shelf or cooler,” Eggert said. “I tend to be obsessive.”
The Tualatin store is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Eggert said that regular customers will get to know the cashiers, nutritionists, butchers and chefs, who will even help them plan supper or a dinner party.
“We’re big on knowing people and the longevity of our employees,” he said. “Our people are food people.”
Divina added, “We take new employees out to the farms to witness the farm-to-market process firsthand.”
No one was anticipating the grand opening of the Tualatin market more than Eggert. “I can’t wait to see it too,” he said.
The Tualatin Basics Market is located at 8680 S.W. Old Tualatin-Sherwood Road.
For more information, visit basicsmarket.com.