In January, Mercer Island native Maggie Dickinson started Goodness Grazers, a company specializing in intricately designed food platters and grazing tables.
Like most people, Dickinson did not anticipate at the time that in just a few months, the world would essentially be put on hold in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
While businesses have struggled to stay afloat in light of mandatory health regulations, Dickinson’s company has not only managed to acclimate to COVID-19 conditions — it’s gained momentum despite them.
Goodness Grazers’ biggest selling point, Dickinson said, has stemmed from a recent launch of “stay-at-home” to-go boxes, which have been a hit.
“It actually kind of put me on the map,” Dickinson said. “I think without the COVID situation, I might not have started picking up business as quickly as I did, which is pretty surprising.”
Dickinson, who lives in Queen Anne, had been using a kitchen space in Ballard for Goodness Grazers’ first few months. But a few weeks ago, Dickinson relocated to a commissary kitchen space at L’Experience Paris in Mercer Island.
This marks a return for Dickinson. In addition to growing up in Mercer Island, where her family still lives, she found her first job out of college there.
“When I found a space that worked for me that happened to be there, it just kind of felt like home to me, returning back,” Dickinson said, adding that she is “super grateful to [L’Experience Paris] for kind of believing in me, because I’m such a tiny, tiny startup.”
A passion worth pursuing
Dickinson said that she still works full time — she has been with t a real estate development company for the last four and a half years — though she is aiming to soon focus solely on her new business.
Dickinson describes herself as someone who has “always been a foodie.”
“I love everything about it — going out to eat, having family gatherings, enjoying food together,” she said. “It’s just something that brings people together. It makes memories.”
A few years ago, Dickinson realized that cuisine was too strong of a passion for her to not pursue.
A couple of summers ago, she went on a backpacking trip across Europe. She was struck by tapas-style dining and the sense of community it fostered as she explored new countries.
When Dickinson came back home, she mulled over what she would orient her business around if she were to start a restaurant.
After noticing that it didn’t have much of a presence in the local restaurant market, Dickinson decided that her company would focus on food platters inspired by the tapas style she had admired in Europe.
“When you try to do it on your own, and you go buy a ton of ingredients that end up costing you so much, you have a lot of leftovers,” Dickinson said. “I thought this would be a really convenient thing.”
Operating during the pandemic
Throughout Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, Goodness Grazers has been offering free delivery within Seattle city limits. (There is a $10 fee for deliveries within 5 miles outside those boundaries.)
Although customers can pick up orders at the Mercer Island location, “99.9 percent of people” receive their orders through contactless delivery.
“We wear masks. We deliver the box to your doorstep, or whatever was convenient nearby that we discussed with the customer,” Dickinson said.
Especially since the debut of the to-go boxes, Dickinson has found major support from Seattle-area patrons, particularly from couples wanting to recreate a night out or from people wanting to gift food to friends and family.
“It’s actually been kind of a positive thing to start up my business, which is a hard thing to say during these times,” Dickinson said.
For Dickinson, the biggest rewards of running her increasingly popular company are rooted in “the excitement and the joy that it’s bringing to individuals and couples and families, and the feedback I get when I pull up to a home and knock on their door and give them their box.”
A recent triumph came on Mother’s Day, when Dickinson sold out all her boxes. Dickinson said she later received notes from customers noting the positive impact it made on the celebratory day.
“I had a lot of people write back about how big of a hit it was with their families and how excited they were,” Dickinson said.
Enthusiasm from customers, like the kind seen on Mother’s Day, reaffirms Dickinson’s passion for what she does.
“For me, that’s kind of the joy that comes from it,” she said. “I think why I do it is because I’m just excited to give people something that I would be really excited to receive.”