Business & economy

New owners take the reins at Grocery Outlet

ONTARIO—The Grocery Outlet in Ontario has new owners.
Nick Robarge and Whitney Bertrand, originally from The Dalles, took the reins at a ribbon-
cutting ceremony hosted by the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Jan. 6, at the
store at 270 S.W. Fourth Ave. 
Robarge, 39, is a grocery industry veteran, who spent nearly two decades at Safeway and New
Seasons as a produce manager and helped start Imperfect Produce, a fruits and vegetable
delivery company that opened in Clackamas in 2018. 
Bertrand’s background is in pharmacy and childcare. 
Robarge and Bertrand said they gravitated toward working for themselves as independent
operators and building a company based on family and community participation.  
“We wanted to be immersed in the community and give back,” Robarge said. “You don’t have
that chance working at a big box store.” 
Coming from The Dalles, Robarge said the rural way of life appealed to him, Bertrand and their
three daughters, who are 15, 13 and 1. 
“We were just trying to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city,” Robarge said. “I love the
country life.” 
Robarge said what differentiates Grocery Outlet from other big box retailers is their practice of
“opportunistic buying.” 
Robarge said the corporate purchasers work with national brands with a surplus of expiring
product inventory or are having seasonal closeouts.  
The company started in 1946 when founder Jim Read bought surplus ration items from the
military after World War II and sold them to civilians at a discounted price in San Francisco.
Seeing the business model’s success, the company expanded beyond government contracts
and began sourcing products from national products. 
Robarge said they have had opportunities to get out into the community and make connections,
such as attending the Treasure Valley Community College Foundation Annual Gala, the
school’s biggest fundraising event of the year. 
Robarge said the event was an opportunity to meet many community members, including
business owners. 
Robarge and Bertrand are taking over for former independent operators Dale and Jilien
Gonzalez, who operated the store for five years. According to John Briedenbach, chamber
CEO, the couple moved back to California. 
Robarge said he and the 14 staffers are taking the time to listen to customers and are working
to bring more of a variety of products to the community. Bertrand said they are especially
looking to bring in more products for the Hispanic population. 
With a third of the population of Ontario being Hispanic, Robarge said they wanted to ensure the
products on the shelves represent the community. 
“We’re taking the time to listen to the customers and what they were looking for,” Robarge said.
“And we’re taking it to heart and we’re working on making sure that that all happens.”

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.