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CHRONICLE | 1 March 2021

West Concord couple create WECO Hospitality with a ‘pay what you want’ business model

West Concord is known for its cluster of independent businesses, like Debra’s Natural Gourmet, which will be expanding its space into the old West Concord’s 5 & 10. We also meet a West Concord couple who started a meal delivery company during the pandemic.

https://www.wcvb.com/article/main-streets-back-roads-debras-natural-gourmet-west-concord-weco-couple-create-weco-hospitality-with-a-pay-what-you-want-business-model/35687111

INTERESTING MODEL — DINNERS TO THE DINERS – YOU PAY WHAT YOU THINK IS FAIR.

ANTHONY: THE TOWN OF CONCORD HAS TWO COMMERCIAL HUBS, CONCORD CENTER WITH ITS STATELY MONUMENT SQUARE AND CLASSIC VILLAGE FEEL AND WEST CONCORD, A CLUSTER OF COLORFUL, INDEPENDENT BUSINESSES. THE BIG NEWS ON THE SIDE OF TOWN, THE RECENT CLOSING OF THE WEST CONCORD FIVE AND 10. LONGTIME PROPRIETOR MAYNARD FORBES GIVEN A ROUSING SENDOFF. [APPLAUSE]

ANTHONY: TO EVERYONE’S RELIEF, THE SPACES STAYING IN THE FAMILY, THE WEST CONCORD FAMILY.
>> EXCITED IS THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR. WE’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR A LARGER SPACE FOR ABOUT FOUR YEARS.

ANTHONY: DEBRA’S NATURAL GOURMET COME A LONG TIME WEST CONCORD FIXTURE WILL BE EXPANDING INTO THE FIVE AND 10 BUILDING, MORE THAN DOUBLING THEIR SPACE.
>> TO GET THIS SPACE RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO OUR OWN, WE KNOW HOW LUCKY WE ARE.

ANTHONY: FOOD STORES MAY BE DOING ALRIGHT, BUT IT HAS BEEN A TOUGH YEAR FOR RESTAURANTS. NOTABLE CONCORD KITCHENS HAVE HAD TO DEAL WITH A RANGE OF CHALLENGES FROM LIMITED SEATING TO OUTRIGHT CLOSURE. BUT WHEN ONE YOUNG COUPLE GOT LAID OFF FROM THE RESTAURANT JOBS, THEY FIGURED IT MIGHT BE A GOOD TIME TO COOK UP A NEW HOSPITALITY MODEL. IF THE DINERS CANNOT COME TO THEM, THEY WOULD BRING DINNER TO THE DINERS. THE COST, WHATEVER THE CUSTOMER FEELS IS FAIR.
>> WE WERE ON BOARD RIGHT AWAY. THE ONLY HARD PART WAS TRYING TO ORDER FIVE NIGHTS A WEEK.

ANTHONY: SHE IS WILD ABOUT THE NEW PRIVATE CHEF AND MEAL DELIVERY SERVICE.
>> THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO PAY UNTIL AFTER THEY ARE DONE. HE SAYS EAT FIRST, ENJOY IT AND THEN LET US KNOW HOW WE DID. ANTHONY: CUSTOMERS GET A NOTE LISTING THE COST OF THE INGREDIENTS AND THEN THEY PAY WHATEVER THEY WANT. THE COST OF THE CHICKEN DINNER, EIGHT DOLLARS AND $.48.
>> IT’S VERY MUCH A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT AND THE GOAL IS TO SHARE WHAT WE’VE GOT WITH EVERYONE WHO WANTS IT.

ANTHONY: GAVIN, WHO HAS WORKED IN TOP KITCHENS IN NEW YORK DOES THE COOKING. RACHEL OVERSEES OPERATIONS.
>> AT FIRST, IT WAS A WAY TO SPREAD JOY IN A DARK TIME. TO NOT GO CRAZY DURING QUARANTINE. I SAID IT’S EITHER ONE OF THE STUPIDEST IDEAS OR THE SMARTEST. IT’S STILL UP FOR DEBATE. WE WILL FIND OUT. WE ARE ONLY NINE MONTHS IN.

ANTHONY: ALL SIGNS ARE PLAYING TO A RUNAWAY SUCCESS. THEY’VE MOVED FROM THE COUPLE’S APARTMENT TO A COMMERCIAL KITCHEN. THEY MAKE HUNDREDS OF DAILY DELIVERIES, RECENTLY OPENING A BRANCH IN SOMERVILLE AND ANOTHER IN DETROIT, MICHIGAN.
>> IT’S LIKE A GREMLIN THAT YOU PUT WATER ON AND IT STARTS MULTIPLYING. SOME SNOWBALL EFFECT. IT GET SO BIG AND YOU ARE LIKE WHOA.

ANTHONY: SO FAR, THE PAY WHAT YOU WANT MODEL IS PAYING OFF WITH THE OCCASIONAL HICCUP.
>> ONE TIME SOMEONE PAID $4000. COMPLETELY BY ACCIDENT. WE EMAILED AND WE WERE LIKE WE WANT TO CHECK IN ABOUT YOUR PAYMENT. IT’S VERY GENEROUS.

ANTHONY: THEIR SUCCESS IS BASED LARGELY ON GAVIN’S SKILLS AS A CHEF, BUT THE SECRET INGREDIENT MIGHT BE THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY. THEY CALL IT THE WECO FAM.
>> I’VE GOT FRIENDS AND FAMILY CAUGHT UP IN IT BECAUSE THEY TREAT YOU LIKE FAMILY.

ANTHONY: THEY ORDER IT TWO OR THREE NIGHTS A WEEK. >> WHEN THEY GOT MARRIED, THEY GAVE PIECES OF CAKE TO EVERYBODY AS A CELEBRATION OF THEIR HAPPINESS. IT’S A COOL WAY TO SAY THEY ARE THRILLED TO BE HAVING US AS CUSTOMERS.
>> YOU WANT TO HAVE A COMMUNITY THAT CAN TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER . IN THESE DIFFICULT TIMES, THERE IS A DISPARITY. SOME PEOPLE ARE DOING REALLY WELL AND SOME PEOPLE ARE NOT DOING WELL. WE DON’T WANT THIS BUSINESS TO BE FOR A CERTAIN TYPE OF PERSON.
>> WE WANT THESE PEOPLE TO FEEL LIKE THEY ARE FRIENDS AND HAVE THAT COMMUNITY VIBE AND NOT JUST A TRANSACTION. NOW IT FEELS LIKE WE HAVE MADE TONS OF NEW FRIENDS. THE COMMUNITY IS AMAZING.

SHANYNA: WECO PUTS OUT THEIR WEEKLY MENU ON THURSDAYS AND CUSTOMERS CAN PICK THE DAYS THEY WANT DELIVERY. THE DOWNSIDE OF SUCCESS? WECO CAN SELL OUT QUICKLY. THEY’RE NOW PLANNING ANOTHER BRANCH IN RANDOLPH SO THEY CAN SERVE THE SOUTH SHORE. AND YES, THEY REFUNDED THE MISTAKEN $4000 DOLLAR PAYMENT!

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