New grocery service boasts delivery to Vermont’s ‘boonies’

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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FAIRLEE, Vt. (WCAX) - Grocery shopping can seem like a chore to some, but many people in Vermont can now order groceries without ever leaving home. And thanks to a new Fairlee man’s company, that includes many rural areas as well.

The pandemic changed a lot, including the way and frequency that people use grocery delivery services, which employ gig shoppers to go grocery shopping for customers. According to one service -- Instacart -- 48% of Americans ordered groceries online during the pandemic, driving down their risk of exposure, and filling the piggy banks of Instacart’s hundreds of thousands of shoppers.

But those benefits don’t reach everyone. Instacart claims to serve 108 of Vermont’s 246 towns, leaving 138 unserved. That’s where the local grocery delivery service, Boonie Cart, comes in. “I feel like this is going to be, become a very big platform in the next couple years or so,” said Jeffrey Niver, the startup’s founder. His customers can order from the Bradford or Barre Hannaford stores and get their items delivered within a 40-mile radius. “There are people who literally -- they can’t get groceries delivered. And they can’t call up their niece or nephew and say, ‘Johnny, can you come help me?’ They won’t do that. So, it’s just like I’m happy to do it, I’m happy to have drivers go out there and do it.”

Although it’s Boonie Cart, it serves more than just the boonies. Niver says they also deliver to Thetford, White River Junction, Tunbridge, Plainfield, Groton -- all in the delivery radius, but not available for Instacart.

We asked Instacart why those areas aren’t served, and if they plan to ever serve them, but didn’t get an immediate response.

“I want to be able to have places that have no capability of getting groceries delivered whether through Instacart or through the grocery store and be that number one source for everybody,” Niver said.

Niver says it fills more than one purpose -- helping under-served communities and underpaid delivery drivers. He says Boonie Cart promises good pay for drivers, and as a result, he is currently sifting through hundreds of applications. “Customers have the ability to sit on their couch and get groceries delivered without having to drive to the grocery store, sit in traffic, wait in line, find all the items in the store,” he said.

While the store options are far more limited than a big service like Instacart’s and the delivery window is longer, for folks in areas of Vermont that can’t even get a pizza delivered, Niver says Boonie Cart could be a solution. “It feels good to be helping people and providing a unique service at the same time,” he said.

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