Santana Sampier believes wholeheartedly in what she does everyday at Whole Foods Market. She is a foodie. She is a people person. And she adores her job. She is the assistant team leader at the store in Tech Center.
Sampier helped open the Newport News grocery store almost five years ago, and is smitten with all that it stands for and its mission. “We love high quality, natural foods, and we want to share it with people,” says Sampier. “We also love the community and try to support it as best we can.”
Whole Foods prides itself on having amazing customer service and food that is organic. It is a paradise for people looking for different, healthy foods. It also focuses heavily on carrying local produce and products. The meat and seafood departments use an animal welfare rating system. Many of its team members are certified in what they do. “That sets us apart,” Sampier says.
Having been with Whole Foods since 2011, Sampier, 29, started in Richmond and then came to Newport News. She could not be happier.
“I love what I do,” she says. “Overcoming challenges for me is more rewarding than stressful. I solve little and big problems on a daily basis. I accept a challenge and attack it head on. I am proud of what I do. Not everybody can say that about his or her job.”
Whole Foods is known for attention to detail. Want to try a piece of the cheese before deciding to buy it? No problem. Need help shopping the store on a budget? Just ask. Sampier is most proud of being able to direct shoppers to the store’s own 365 brand, which is not at all expensive and still high quality. On weekend days, it is not unusual for 2,000 shoppers to visit the market.
“I love embracing the opportunity to show customers our store,” Sampier says. “A lot of team members are on a first-name basis with our customers. We want people to feel like they are part of our family. That’s what we are. We pride ourselves on customer service and going above and beyond.”
The grocery store business has been rife with challenges this year as COVID-19 changed the retail landscape, but Sampier and her team of 140 have not missed a beat. When the virus became a threat, Whole Foods closed its prepared food section and also the OP Pub. But it quickly pivoted and used that space for what it really needed at that moment: an area to put together online orders. So now, where there was once a pub, there is a staging area where team members are busy putting together orders to be delivered or picked up by customers.
“It’s been a learning experience, a valuable experience,” Sampier says. “It’s created a lot of job opportunity.” Since COVID, the orders have poured in, as people have tried to reduce their trips out in public. Whole Foods has been able to meet the needs. The store’s shoppers, the number of which jumped from 12 to 40, begin fulfilling orders at 4:30am and end at 9:30pm. It’s constant motion.
“Demand is still really high. We are breaking records. It has definitely been crazy in here,” Sampier says. “We get thousands of orders each week.”
Some online shoppers order just a couple of items; others use it to fulfill their entire grocery list. The record so far has been an order with 163 items. “Everyone uses it in a different way,” Sampier says.
The shift in how people shop has forced change, but not in a negative way, she says. Sampier is not one to get overwhelmed or negative, no matter what the business throws her way.
“I always look at the silver lining,” she says. “It’s cool to see how we can come up with different ways to do things and still keep people happy.”
TO THE POINT:
Whole Foods Market
Address: 12080 Jefferson Ave., Ste. 100, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Santana Sampier, assistant team leader