Minneapolitans who’ve relied on the doorstep deliveries of online grocer SimonDelivers will have to find a new service or go back to pushing grocery carts in less than a month.
The Twin Cities-based company is taking its final orders this month before rolling its familiar yellow delivery trucks to a stop permanently in the wake of rising fuel and food costs. A pioneer in its field, SimonDelivers took the hassle out of grocery shopping for nine years with virtually no competition except for a Lunds and Byerly’s delivery service launched in 2006.
SimonDelivers founder Simon Foster — who left the company five years ago and now works as a consultant at Downtown search firm Spencer Stuart — said there’s still a growing market for online grocery delivery services. But SimonDelivers didn’t build those customers fast enough to overcome today’s fuel and food prices, rough economy and new competition, he said.
“We were very, very close,” said Foster, who hired the bulk of SimonDelivers’ staff and still stays in touch with them. “We did a lot of things very well; we were probably the best at what we did, but sometimes you can be the best at something and if it’s a little too premature it still doesn’t make it viable.”
SimonDelivers CEO Liwanag Ojala did not immediately return phone calls for comment, but said in a prepared statement that the company was having difficulty dealing with economic conditions that affected both costs and customer decisions.
The company employed 300 people and served 19,000 customers when the decision was made to shut down. Nearly 4 million orders werre delivered to roughly 180,000 unique customers throughout the company’s lifespan.
Lunds and Byerly’s are hoping to attract some of those customers to their delivery service, Lundsandbyerlys.com, said company spokesman Aaron Sorenson.
“We certainly encourage Twin Cities residents to give us a try,” he said.
Sorenson said the service was still performing well and growing, despite dealing with the same obstacles SimonDelivers did.
“We pay the same price for gas,” he said. “But we’re not to the point where we feel we need to change the business model.”
Customers who opt for grocery delivery services often do so because they lack the time to get to a store, or simply don’t want to deal with the crowds and carts and everything else that comes with shopping at a supermarket.
Armatage resident Sheila Dingels used SimonDelivers for more than five years and recommended the service to clients of her professional organizing business. She said she tried the Lunds and Byerly’s service briefly, but found it less user-friendly.
"I may go back and try it again," she said. "Or I’ll go back to the grocery store."
Kingfield resident and former Southwest Journal editor David Brauer said he used SimonDelivers for several years when his schedule was tight.
“As far as the ease of ordering and the efficiency of delivery, it was shockingly good,” he said. “There’s no doubt it was a huge time saver.”
Brauer dropped the service when his career path changed and he was looking for a more affordable way to buy groceries, though he said SimonDelivers’ prices were on par with high-end stores such as Kowalski’s, Lunds or Byerly’s.
He received several “come back” coupons after ending the service, but didn’t know just how bad they wanted him back until word of the company’s demise.
“I got the sense they were desperate,” he said. “But I didn’t realize they were this close to closing.”
SimonDelivers is now accepting online orders only, through [email protected] Orders will be filled until inventory runs out.