In the late 1800s, Jitsuzo Nakata and his family came to America from Japan, making their new home on Bainbridge Island. About the same time, another immigrant, Tom Loverich from Croatia, had also made his way to the island. Both men established themselves in their own businesses and raised their families, never knowing that one day their sons, John and Mo Nakata and Ed Loverich, would form a lifelong friendship and business together.
In the early 1950s, good friends John, Mo and Ed purchased and operated three small local grocery stores. After a few years, they decided to sell the smaller stores and open the island’s first “super” market, which included the island’s first set of automated doors.
On August 29, 1957, they opened Town & Country Thriftway on Winslow Way. The grand opening was an epic community event that included helicopters, a heavyweight boxing champion, and children’s television personalities.
It was an impressive display for a small island community of approximately 900 people. “When the market opened on August 29, 1957, it was under the ‘Thriftway’ banner. That was a format created by our wholesaler, Associated Grocers,” said Susan Allen, senior director of brand development and daughter of former company president, Don Nakata. “My guess is that the grand opening events were created in partnership with AG for new store celebrations. I’m sure the founders, John & Mo Nakata and Ed Loverich, were a part of the planning as they did love creating something special for the community.”
Fast forward to 1985, the T&C family was ready to expand and over the course of the next 20 years, they opened several more markets including Ballard Market, Greenwood Market (which closed in 2012), Central Market in Shoreline, Poulsbo and Mill Creek, and T&C Lakemont. As Susan told me, “Our markets have had many names in different communities over many decades. Our first Poulsbo store was ‘Viking Mark-It Foods’ because customers actually wrote prices on their groceries with a grease pencil. We named markets after the community like our Ballard Market or Greenwood Market. Back in the 90’s it was ‘Price Chopper’ at a couple locations.”
Each market was tailored for the community it serves, focusing on locally and internationally sourced products as well as core products, creating a unique mix and selection for their customers. “When we developed the first Central Market in Poulsbo, that name was derived from the intention that it would be a destination store that could draw from a larger area,” Susan explained. “When we decided we wanted to bring all our markets under one name and work more closely as one company, it felt like we should return to our roots, ‘Town & Country Markets’. We feel we are both a bit ‘Town’ and a bit ‘Country’.”
Town & Country is also planning for a long-awaited new store opening in Gig Harbor, details to come.
In addition to unifying the stores under the T&C name, the stores will undergo renovations and refreshed interiors. Planned updates include more department selections, expanded Grab-N-Go options, new indoor/outdoor dining areas and a new website to provide shoppers with a more enhanced and interactive online and in-store experience.
In their Grab-N-Go sections, they currently have a great foundation of foods on offer, however they’ll be updating the section to include more seasonal selections and room for expansion to keep up with eating trends.
One of the new digital experiences they’re excited to share on the new website will be their “Partner Stories” section. “We have been fortunate to have developed long-term relationships with many of our grower/producer partners. Whether that be a local farmer, fish company or bakery, we feel our relationship is key on behalf of creating the best eating experiences for our customers. And in sharing their stories, we feel it gives customers the opportunity to connect and feel good about the foods they are eating,” said Susan.
In mid-September, Central Market in Mill Creek will be the first (outside of Bainbridge Island and Lakemont) to receive the Town & Country Market name. To celebrate, the company is inviting the community to enjoy special promotions and giveaways at all their locations. These limited time offers are available Sept. 16 to 19, Sept. 23 to 26, and Sept. 30 to Oct. 3.
“Bringing all of our stores under the Town & Country name is a natural next step for our company, allowing us to come together as one brand for wider reach while offering the same local products, great culture and passionate people,” said Bill Weymer, CEO of Town & Country for 11 years. “We’ve been around for more than 60 years, operating largely as individual stores. This move to one family name sets a foundation for our next 60 years as we spark excitement with what’s new in our stores. Town & Country isn’t just a place where you buy food, it’s where you go to be inspired by it. We look forward to having more people find their own inspiration in what we offer and discover more from our region.”
Staying true to their roots as a local family-owned business is important to T&C, and they feel lucky to have several Nakata and Loverich family members currently working for the company. In addition, they have many (multi-generational) employees who have been with them almost from the start, keeping the “family” connection and shared history alive for generations to come.
Giving Together: In July 2020, T&C launched their Giving Together program, and by January 2021, with the help of customer donations, they have distributed more than $235,000 to neighbors in our community who were facing food insecurity. They partner with local food banks to support short and long-term needs. To learn more about the program, click here.