Costco comes to the bay: How a startup and DRL are taking deliveries to rural customers

·3 min read
Jamie Heath and Bradley Russell founded Big Feed Club in 2001. They are shown during their first day of deliveries.  (Submitted by Jamie Heath  - image credit)
Jamie Heath and Bradley Russell founded Big Feed Club in 2001. They are shown during their first day of deliveries. (Submitted by Jamie Heath - image credit)
Submitted by Jamie Heath
Submitted by Jamie Heath

With gas and food prices continuing to hit record-breaking highs, many Newfoundlanders who live outside of the proverbial overpass will no longer have to trek to St. John's to stock up on bulk goods at Costco.

A new service is on the road in Newfoundland this summer which will see DRL Coach Lines teaming up with a St. John's company called the Big Feed Club to shuttle goods into rural areas.

Brad Russell, co-founder of Big Feed Club, told CBC News his company lists about 1,500 Costco products that the massive bulk store would typically have in its warehouse. They focus primarily on fresh food and household staples.

"In times when grocery fees are going through the roof, I think it will be welcome outside the Avalon," Russell said.

"For the vast majority of products that we offer, it looks like we're going to be saving people money."

A recent startup, Big Feed Club has been focusing on grocery deliveries in the metro St. John's area over the last 17 months. The DRL agreement opens the company's access to 21 stops on DRL's cross-island route, from St. John's to Port aux Basques.

Customers will need to register with Big Feed website to secure an order. Registration is free.

Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board
Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board

Russell said products are packaged and shipped appropriately — keeping frozen or cooled products chilled for example — and the delivery fee is about 15 per cent of the order's total.

He said he hopes the company will be able to lower that charge in the future but as of right now the prices and the delivery charge are comparable to grocery stores outside of the Avalon Peninsula.

'We're going every day no matter what'

Russell said the feedback from Big Feed Clubs customers over recent months has been excellent, with restaurants being among the biggest clients.

"Starting a grocery delivery business in the middle of the pandemic — it was good timing for us," he said.

As for DRL, owner Jason Roberts told CBC News it's a happy partnership between both companies, one that's a no-brainer since his buses are already on the highway 365 days a year.

As well, since DRL already dabbles in shipping packages across the island, food and other products are no different, Roberts said.

Ryan Cooke/CBC
Ryan Cooke/CBC

"If they order today, it'll be picked tomorrow and be there the next day," he said.

"I think that there was in excess of 400 people signed up on the first day wanting to take part in the service."

The partnership is also a shot in the arm for revenue. DRL is getting about six per cent on deliveries.

In May, Roberts told CBC News this summer would be an indicator of whether or not he would keep the cross-island transportation service running as fuel prices creep higher despite the removal of the provincial gas tax and ridership levels are low.

"It's a little bit of a revenue-base hopefully for us on a daily basis that we can definitely use," he said.

"We're going every day no matter what. I just hope it gets to the point where I got to put a trailer behind the bus."

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