Central Market no more: The new sign at the Mill Creek store.

The sign is up, the websites have changed—Central Market in Mill Creek now goes by Town and Country Market. It’s the first step to bringing cohesion to a group of beloved regional grocery stores that operate under various names across the Puget Sound.

Over the next 15 months, three sibling supermarkets—Ballard Market, plus the Central Market locations in Shoreline and Poulsbo—will become Town and Country Markets, sharing a name with their parent company, which began in 1957 with a single store on Bainbridge Island.

As independent grocers, “we have raised our locations somewhat independently,” says Bill Weymer, the company CEO. He was with Town and Country back in 1985, when they converted a former Lucky store into Ballard Market. In coming up with a name, he remembers, “we wanted to be very local and focused on the community.” Meanwhile, the company adopted the Central Market name for larger destination stores, starting with the Poulsbo location.

Now the chain numbers six locations, with a seventh on the way in Gig Harbor. Each one occupies that perfect grocery middle ground, a place where you can buy locally made products and superb produce, but also boxes of Triscuits and cases of Sprite. Individually, customers adore them; collectively they haven’t loomed as large in the consumer consciousness as other regional chains where all the locations share a uniform name.

“We spend a lot of time trying to connect the dots,” says Susan Allen, the company’s senior director of brand development. Her grandfather, John Nakata, founded the Bainbridge Island store with his brother, Mo, and their friend Ed Loverich. Allen’s father, Don Nakata, ran the company for more than three decades; the families still own the business.

The internet’s arrival made the multiple-name thing even trickier. The stores needed separate websites; digital marketing got complicated. The plan to align all the store names percolated for years, says Weymer, but got shelved for a bit as the company grappled with the arrival of the pandemic.

The name change in Mill Creek coincides with a significant store remodel. Weymer and Allen say Ballard Market’s changeover will happen next, followed by the Poulsbo location mid-2022 and Shoreline before the end of next year. Beyond a million obvious little shifts (the store name on receipts, on signs, on promotional materials), customers won’t see a significant difference. As Weymer puts it, “We just know we need to speak with a more unified voice."

 

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