LAKE STEVENS — Turners Neighborhood Grocery is the go-to snack jackpot for 15-year-old Hailey Miller.
The teen can sleep late, then walk to the corner market with her BFF for a junk food run.
The best part?
“My dad said to put it on his tab,” she tells store owner Doug Turner as she nonchalantly plops two big candy bars and four bags of chips on the counter.
The silver-haired shopkeeper jots down the amount in a card file. Hailey and her friend saunter off with the loot, the creaky wooden screen door closing with a gentle thud.
She couldn’t skip away without paying at Costco, but like general stores of old, IOUs are accepted at Turners.
Costco eventually might be Hailey’s only option.
What’s up with that?
The market at 3201 S. Lake Stevens Road is less than a mile from a proposed Costco at Highway 9 and 20th Street SE. The 170,000-square-foot warehouse will be more than 100 times larger with bulk pricing.
For the price of four candy bars at Turners, Hailey could get a dozen at Costco. But she’d never get out the door there just by dropping Dad’s name.
Doug Turner, 65, has owned the nearly century-old market, formerly Rodland’s Grocery, for the past 30 years.
“I had twice the customer count those first years than I do now,” he said. “It dropped in half when Fred Meyer opened in Snohomish (in 2008).”
Turner, a welder by trade, paid $200,000 in 1989 for the 1920s-built general store that came with an attached home on two acres.
“My wife wasn’t as excited as I was,” he said. The couple later divorced.
Their son, Cameron, was on a stool ringing up customers when he was 3. He’s 29 now, and a mechanical engineer who works on rocket engines.
“Lots of memories here,” Turner said.
The store is open every day but Christmas. The front counter is covered 15 hours a day during the week and 12-plus hours daily on weekends. Turner has two part-time employees, and one is his girlfriend.
A store doorway leads straight into his kitchen and the house continues from there. If Turner catches a break, he heads to the back yard to toss horseshoes. He’s quite proud of the pit he built.
Turner has been trying to sell his market property for several years by word-of-mouth. With Costco coming to the ’hood, he fears it will be impossible to get a buyer now for the place, which the Snohomish County Assessor values at $570,000 for 2020.
He wrote down his Costco objections on a yellow legal pad in hopes of speaking at a public meeting. His concerns include traffic. That road where Hailey walks to get to his store will be screaming with cars that fuel up at the 30 gas pumps in Costco’s game plan.
Turner doesn’t have a beef with the big-box giant.
Fact is, he relies on it as much as he does the patronage from his regular customers.
“I could not survive without Costco,” he said.
“It’s ironic. They hurt me, but I couldn’t survive without them. I go to the Business Center (in Lynnwood). I get all my tobacco and most all of my candy and beverages there weekly.”
Lynnwood’s Highway 99 store is one of two Business Center Costcos in Washington. The other is in Fife. As the name implies, these are geared for merchants, not household shoppers.
It’s the neighborhood Costco coming onto his turf that worries Turner.
He carries milk, bread, eggs and the same food items as the larger stores, though in smaller quantities. If the person ahead of you scored the Froot Loops, you might have to go with Cap’n Crunch. Ice cream treats are solo. Avocados are hit-or-miss. Bananas that go bad are free. Bacon never goes bad.
The market has extras, such as fishing poles and hundreds of 99-cent rental DVDs. VHS tapes are free on the honor system. Old movie posters line the walls.
Family photos smile at customers from under glass on the counter. On a food shelf with the Hamburger Helper is a framed pic of Turner’s dearly departed Aunt Marilyn, who’d come from New Mexico to run the store so he could take a vacation.
The draw here is more than the goods.
“People come in and get the latest gossip,” said Amy Cluphf, a cashier for 15 years.
The buzz these days is about Costco coming in, she said.
Beer and smokes are the market’s bread and butter.
Turner said he doesn’t carry vaping products due to the fee charged by the state for the license. This is a Marlboro and Camel crowd anyway. Regulars prefer igniting tobacco, or chewing it from a can.
Jim Jackson, 63, started coming here when it was Rodland’s Grocery. He’s not bailing for Costco, he said last week on his daily visit.
“Right now I’m going to buy half a rack of Budweiser and a couple packs of cigarettes,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll buy a TV dinner.”
Turner orders about 80 cases of beer a week to stock the walk-in cooler that he built. His background came in handy when he went from tradesman to grocer.
“I thought about getting rid of the DVDs and putting more beer over there,” Turner said. “But some people still want them.”
Whatever people ask for, Turner will carry.
Want WSU Cougar Gold cheese? There’s one $28 can left.
The “toy guy” supplies him with mood rings and kites and a spinning rack of cheap plastic playthings.
Hailey has fond memories of picking out a toy at Turners where she’s been coming “basically forever.”
The store with the creaky screen door is still her favorite place to shop. “Other than, like, the mall,” she said.
Last week, when Turner gave her dad some rotting bananas, they made banana bread and brought the shopkeeper a loaf.
For Turner, letting customers run a bill is both a convenience and a good business risk.
“Some pay every other week. Some pay once a month. Some pay whenever I bug them, ‘Hey, your bill’s getting up there,’ ” he said. “I rarely get stiffed.”
Credit cards are his main culprit.
“In any given month, it exceeds $800 out of pocket for the fees,” Turner said. “I don’t know how many times someone puts a pack of gum down and is ready with a card. It’s ridiculous the cost of swiping cards.”
Turner wants to sell the market to somebody who’d carry it on in some way.
Would they get all the Camels, chips, VHS tapes, mood rings, horseshoes and that can of Cougar Gold cheese?
He’ll cut them a deal.