“We are focused on grocery deliveries,” says Marie Steele, 28, Bluff City Greens COO and co-founder. “We started in the South Memphis area delivering groceries back in May. We focus on the elderly population.”
They recently began delivering in the Downtown area, and they plan to spread to other Memphis areas. “We’re focused on Memphis. We’re all here in Memphis. You can call us. We’re here. We’re not in some office on the West coast. We live here. We love this community, and everything we do is for Memphis.”
- Marie Steele
Bluff City Greens is part of Greens Innovations, which was established last October. Like Bluff City Greens, its mission is “to increase the access to fresh groceries in Memphis, specifically, but by using automation, data-driven marketing strategies. We’re tailoring [the business] to Memphis. So regardless of where you live, you’ll have access to groceries in Memphis.”
The two Greens Innovations founders, who, for now, are “silent partners,” live Downtown, Steele says. “They noticed when they were living down here their options to grocery stores were quite limited. One has a background in engineering, so he brings our innovative side to it. The other co-founder is huge on data. He sees data as another driving force in being able to deliver product lines that are tailored to the Memphis market.”
Her parents live in Memphis, says Steele, who is from Chicago. “I’ve always been very passionate about food justice and nutrition. I started a 501c3 with my mom, Dr. Brigid Steele. She’s primary care director at Memphis VA. She’s passionate about nutrition and wellness, and how they go hand in hand.”
But Steele’s passion goes back to her grandmother, she says. “She ran a series of nursing homes in the Chicago area for people with mental imbalances and addiction. Nutrition was one of the fundamental things she focused on in her nursing homes.”
Steele was living in Arizona when she began her nonprofit, Kenniebrew Kind. “The mission was to utilize community leaders and build strategic alliances to promote education and wellness.”
The nonprofit was “very nutrition-focused. It sparks from my background in psychology,” says Steele, who got her psychology degree from Loyola University in New Orleans.
When she moved back to Memphis in January, Steele realized Greens Innovations was a perfect fit for her.
Bluff City Greens was “slow at first,” but now, she says, they have “80 percent customer retention that returns month after month.”
They have a team of workers — all an average age of 26 — who deliver groceries seven days a week. “In the next two weeks, we should have a delivery van. Right now, we’re just using our own cars.”
People can order by going to their website, bluffcitygreens.com, or they can call them at 901-295-9077. They have a $3.99 delivery fee. Senior citizens and people living in South Memphis pay 99 cents.
- Mikayla Newark with Bluff City Greens shops for groceries.
Customers can pay online, but Steele says they do allow seniors to pay when the delivery arrives to their homes if they wish.
For now, Bluff City Greens is going through a local grocer for groceries. They’re also working out partnerships with other grocery stores. “We have one located on Mud Island. One in Midtown. And one Downtown in the final stages of solidifying a partnership.”
They offer same-day delivery to Downtown residents because “it’s so close to our hub,” Steele says. They only deliver on Wednesdays and weekends to South Memphis. “We’re going to expand to the rest of Memphis. We just need to get more drivers first and make sure our operations are ready to handle that type of volume. But we’re going to expand.”
They’ve gotten to know their customers, Steele says. “Miss Wright. She’s very particular. She likes organic food. And she likes fresh food, like wild-caught salmon. She has a neighbor just a few streets away who always orders the same thing: orange juice, milk, sausage patties. And she loves her Coke Zero.”
Another customer is “very particular about her Häagen-Dazs ice cream. She orders that quite frequently.”