Nicolas Farrell says that cooperation between independent businesses is part of Stanley Marketplace’s DNA. The building supports over fifty locally owned stores, and during normal times, its hallways invite customers to pick and choose between food and retail items to eat and bring home. These days, shopping looks a bit different: Because of the pandemic, the marketplace can't open to full capacity, and many customers aren’t browsing the way they used to.
To adapt, Farrell and Michael Davis, co-owners of Mondo Market, have created an online service, Stanley Delivers, which allows customers to purchase items from multiple stores in a single package that they can pick up or have delivered. Farrell hopes the platform will allow the Stanley’s businesses to find new ways to attract customers and remain competitive in an increasingly online retail world.
“People are happiest when they’re focusing on what they love,” says Farrell. When the pandemic forced businesses to adapt to social distancing guidelines and prioritize curbside pick-ups and deliveries, many business owners had to learn how to sell products on the Internet. “It can be painful for someone who’s really good at their job to have to box [their product] up in order to pay rent,” he continues.
Setting up an online retail platform also takes time and skill, and that’s where Farrell and Davis knew they could step in. They had begun Mondo Market as an online specialty food distributor in 2008, five years before they’d opened as a brick-and-mortar. “[Davis] has a way of doing things and building websites and coding, and speaks that language,” Farrell says, and together they have a knack for envisioning possibilities. More recently, the pair had kicked around the idea of creating an online wholesale platform; while that project didn’t pan out, it did create the framework for the customer-facing Stanley Delivers.
Not only did Farrell and Davis set up the online shopping platform, but they created a fulfillment center inside Stanley Marketplace where orders are packed up for customers, even those shopping from locations outside of Colorado. Although the focus is currently on non-perishable items, Farrell hopes to offer more deliveries from the Stanley’s restaurants in 2021.
For example, a customer could order Apple EarPods from Aim High Technology, an FW hat from AKTIV and a board game from Minecraft Makerspace in the morning and pick it up curbside the same afternoon. With at least a few hours' lead time, someone living within six miles of the Stanley could order shampoo, candles and candy from the likes of Clementine’s Salon & Skincare, True and Miette Et Chocolat and have it all delivered by 5 p.m. Or a customer living anywhere in the country could order Wrappy Reusable Food Wraps from Zero Market, a bag of Hunter Bay Coffee Roasters Coffee from Mondo and Chook Chicken Salt from Chook Charcoal Chicken and see it on their doorstep within a few days via FedEx.
Same-day deliveries in the Denver area are currently constrained by the company's van, nicknamed Bob, which Farrell jokes only runs about 30 miles per hour. In due course, he hopes to expand the company's delivery capacity.
Transparency is key for Farrell. He explains that the total cost of each order reflects the price of each product plus a single service fee, a delivery fee and an option to add a gratuity. This price structure distinguishes Stanley Delivers from food-delivery companies such as UberEats, Doordash and Grubhub, which have been known to take a 30 percent commission from each order (a number that was recently capped at 15 percent by Denver City Council under a temporary ordinance in effect until February 9). Farrell states that high commission rates can actually result in taking away jobs. While he certainly hopes to make money from the new delivery service, he has a bigger picture in mind. “We want to do good with our gifts,” he says. Further, he wants small businesses to survive.
E-commerce accounted for 14.3 percent of total U.S. retail sales during the third quarter of 2020, up from 11.2 percent during the same period a year earlier, according to U.S. Census Bureau News. And although those numbers reflect the nature of the pandemic, online spending isn’t going away. But Farrell wants Stanley Delivers to be seen as a convenient, customer-friendly local alternative to impersonal global giants like Amazon.
He’s also banking on customers wanting to support the local businesses represented at the Stanley. “I believe this is how small businesses survive Amazon,” he explains. He notes that Amazon provides good, convenient service, but over-dependence won’t leave any independently owned stores standing. For him, finding a way to compete is a good challenge. “Let’s change the conversation. Let’s put Mom and Pop in a format where it’s easy for people to support them,” he says.
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