Newport Avenue Market CEO Lauren Johnson is the second generation in her family to run the specialty, employee-owned grocery store on Bend’s west side.
When she’d turned 16, Lauren G.R. Johnson applied at Newport Avenue Market to be a courtesy clerk, bagging groceries, a job that in the late 1990s was called “box boy.” She moved up to donut fryer, then checker.
“Everybody has a first job that’s really about getting the foundation of showing up on time, with a clean uniform, doing what you’re told and when,” said Johnson, 44. “I had great people mentoring me in good customer service.” There was an added wrinkle—those department managers knew that one day she might be their boss.
Johnson’s parents, Rudy and Debbie Dory, store owners since 1991, were slowly transforming the conventional market into a specialty store, with both of their children working there as teenagers, but Debbie didn’t think either of her children would step into their shoes.
Lauren left Bend for two decades to be a flight attendant, work the front desk at a public relations firm in Portland, and to be at home raising her daughter there as well as in Texas and Vancouver, Washington. About eight years ago, she came back to the family business. A top priority was its nearly 100 employees, which still included some who’d trained her as a teenager.
“With the difficulty of the business and the continuing increase of expenses, I wanted to look after employees, and one of the best ways was to be employee-owned, which allows them to retire at some point and be a viable, important part of the community,” said Johnson, the market’s CEO. She and her parents had talked about it for years, but the market had to generate enough sales to justify the expense.
“We wanted to continue our legacy in the community and reward employees who make us who we are,” she said. They made the store employee-owned in 2014.
“Lauren was away for twenty years, and I didn’t think she’d be coming back, but she did,” said Debbie Dory. “She’d always been here for annual meetings, so she always had her finger in the pie, so to speak, and remembered a whole lot more than I’d thought she would, not being in Bend, and it has been an excellent thing. It’s always nice when you have fresh ideas. For one, our store is a very fun place, it’s not a typical grocery store.”