As a new owner takes over the Ukrop’s chain, the way local charities and nonprofits raise and receive money could change.
Groups, including the Girl Scouts and the Salvation Army, will no longer will be allowed to set up shop outside Ukrop’s stores to sell their wares or solicit donations, as they have done for years.
The chain’s new owner — Martin’s Food Markets, which is part of Netherlands-based Royal Ahold NV — has a policy prohibiting sidewalk vending at its stores. The company bought 25 Ukrop’s stores last week and has begun the process of rebranding them.
“Our customers have voiced that they would prefer to shop in our stores without being solicited by other organizations, and we have listened to and respected their wishes,” Martin’s said in a statement yesterday.
Several area Girl Scout troops were upset when notified last week that they would not be able to sell cookies outside the Ukrop’s stores.
“It’s disappointing because a lot of groups count on that to raise funds,” said Kara Hart, a Brownie troop leader from Henrico County.
The troops use cookie sales to fund activities throughout the year. Hart’s troop planned to set up outside the Ukrop’s at The Village shopping center at Three Chopt Road and Patterson Avenue but is now looking for an alternative.
Martin’s said yesterday that it would buy 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to donate to the Central Virginia Foodbank.
“I’m glad they’re doing that,” Hart said, “but it’s not going to help a Brownie go to camp.”
Capt. David Worthy, commander of the Salvation Army in Richmond, said his organization understands the decision to ban solicitation and believes Martin will more than make up for any losses in donations the group would have collected.
“It certainly impacts us, but in the scheme of things, it’s not going to harm us. We’ll find ways to make it up,” he said.
The group collected about $60,000 this past holiday season from bell ringers at Ukrop’s stores.
Worthy said he was not surprised when Martin’s notified the Salvation Army of the chain’s policy late last year. For instance, retailer Target banned Salvation Army kettles from all of its stores nationwide a couple of years ago.
“We expected this because more and more stores are implementing these policies. As far as the Salvation Army is concerned, we’re comfortable with the decision that’s been made,” Worthy said.
He added that Martin’s parent company has been good to the Salvation Army in other markets, so “we’re not worried.”
What impact Martin’s ownership will have on local charities or sponsorships remains unclear. For instance, no decision has been made on sponsorship of the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K after next month’s race, said Jon Lugbill, executive director of the Metropolitan Richmond Sports Backers, which organizes the race.
Those discussions will take place after the race because of the time and effort needed now to pull it off.
Martin’s is sponsoring the race for children ages 5-12, he said.
“Our goal is to stay closely connected to the community,” said Tracy Pawelski, a Martin’s spokeswoman. “Since we have a charitable mission around improving the quality of life for children and fighting hunger, you’ll see us continue to try to make a difference in these areas.”
Martin’s will work with community groups to help raise money through 10 programs, such as the United Way and a school rewards program. It also gives its store managers leeway to work with local charities.
At least one competitor is looking to take advantage of the changes. Farmer’s Foods, which operates nine stores in Virginia and North Carolina, including two in the Richmond area, said yesterday that it welcomed the opportunity to help area Girl Scout troops at its stores.
The store has always allowed the Girls Scouts to sell cookies at its stores, said Paul Farmer, who handles marketing for the family-owned grocery chain.
“These little girls aren’t begging for money, they are selling a quality product,” he said.
Source: Richmond Times Dispatch