During the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, it can be nearly impossible for businesses to help themselves, let alone partner companies.

But Island Choice has found a way to start a positive ripple effect through its new, free grocery delivery service.

“Giving back to the community with 28 years of support, we also try to support our fellow businesses. Everybody is suffering during COVID. If we can help businesses create more income, we will do that,” Perry Perez, vice president of Island Choice told The Guam Daily Post. “We’re just out there trying to help everybody. This is a trying time; it’s a time for people to get together. Instead of fighting each other, let’s do this as a team.”

Island Choice Grocery launched officially late last month, but, months prior, longtime customers who ordered water through the decades showed Perez and others that the model could work on a larger scale.

“We also have customers during our water delivery time asking our drivers to run to their store for them, (especially) the elderly. They’ve been with us for 10 to 20 years. They trust the drivers, they trust Island Choice so much that they ask us to run and get bread, milk, eggs – and the drivers would courteously do that and let us know,” he said. “We’re listening to all the customers that we have. And we said, ‘OK, let’s try to do this.’ Because, with COVID, it’s kind of hitting everyone too hard. Now our customers are really scared, so we tried to open up to help out all of the community.”

The grocery delivery service has several “major supermarket” partners already. By sourcing the goods from retailers, instead of making wholesale purchases itself, Island Choice Grocery is able to address COVID-19-related anxieties of its customers and support a retailer that may have lost business otherwise.

Customers enjoy free delivery on purchases, thanks to the relationships Island Choice has built over the years, also affording its customers near-retail pricing. Over-the-counter medicine, pet food, diapers and paper products can be purchased in addition to mainstay groceries.

“Some stores will give you a volume discount. And also, since we’ve been in the water business for 28 years, it’s a lot easier. We have the vehicles to run around the island. We know the locations. So everything for us is a little bit easier to do,” Perez said. “And the only thing we had to do was create the app to make sure it was user-friendly for any age group 18 and above. With our drivers, they’ve already been to the south so many times. They already know the streets, so they don’t have to take too long. It’ll be a fast delivery.”

The response to the new service so far has been very strong, according to Perez. The company has been fielding “a lot” of daily orders through its website and app since launch.

Shoppers can save time and the headache that can happen when hunting around the island for popular, sold-out items. With multiple store partners, the delivery service will find the product purchased, and won’t charge any fees for prices that are above what was already paid.

“Guam is very unpredictable in the stores – whether they’re going to have this product on this month, this week or so. That’s why we try to hit three or four of the major grocery stores," he said. “We try to make it so you don’t have to spend three to four hours trying to go to all the product stores. We will do that for you. We will hit all the major grocery stores that we can in our area (to find them).”

Unlike its water delivery, however, a person must be present to receive delivered groceries. The policy is part of a money-back guarantee when residents are unhappy with the quality of the goods delivered.

“Let’s say the cucumber is not to your liking; it’s a little bit soft. Just give it to the driver and we will not charge you for it - whatever the customer feels they’re not happy with.”

Hot dinners

Perez recognizes that some people buy groceries and an already prepared dinner on the same trip because many are too tired to cook at the end of the workday. So, in addition to supermarket deliveries, customers can order hot meals to be sent to their homes during a limited, early evening window.

“We went to professional caterers around our area here and we talked to them to see if we can offer some of their products online. They were happy to say yes,” he said. “We taste everything before we offer it; we don’t just offer anything.”

Current dinner options include burgers, Chinese food, barbecue sticks and pasta – all for $7.99 a portion.

These deliveries are available in northern and central villages, down to the Hagåtña area on the west side of the island and Chalan Pago on the east side, Perez said. Many of those ordering the meals are eating their way through the menu.

“We have customers who have tried every single item there and they start all over again,” Perez said.

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