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A taste for quality: How Winston’s General is giving community pantries a premium flavor

June 1, 2023 | Published by Faire

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The shelves and logo for Winston's General, a specialty goods store in La Conner, Washington

Driving into the charming, 965-person town of historic La Conner in Skagit County, Washington, you’ll be hard-pressed to miss Winston’s General, which is ever-bustling with locals and visitors looking for unique treats and gifts. Owner Robyn Bradley considered what kind of store she’d gravitate toward when visiting a small town like hers. “The beauty of a general store is that I can do whatever I want,” she says. “I can try different things, and no one can tell me otherwise.”

Named after one of Robyn’s two dogs, Winston’s sits on the picnic-table-filled town square, alongside the channel that runs into Skagit Bay. Next door is a winery that doesn’t sell food, making Winston’s the ideal spot for pair-worthy snacks, melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, inventive cocktail mixes, and Instagrammable hot sauces. Robyn also sells a variety of other “general store” items, like games, plants, and soaps—but focuses heavily on specialty foods.

  I did more research and wondered why we weren’t buying everything on Faire.

Robyn Bradley, Owner, Winston’s General

The ability to lean into different verticals gives Robyn the freedom to change things up, but her one constant is quality, and she finds both freedom and quality on Faire. “I buy 97% of Winston’s General items on Faire,” she says. 

Winston’s General is one of 130,000 retailers shopping for food and drinks on Faire. In addition to being a buyer, Robyn sells items from her lifestyle brand, handmade. la conner, on Faire. In fact, she originally put Henrietta’s—a pet-specific product line named after her second dog—on Faire and realized the risk-free marketplace was perfect for her specialty goods shop. “I did more research and wondered why we weren’t buying everything on Faire,” she explains. “It makes buying and selling so much easier than ever before.”

Shopping from anywhere to save money and time 

When stocking Winston’s shelves, Robyn is drawn to a mix of specialty grocery items, from Camp Craft Cocktails and Fishwife tinned fish to Mast chocolate. “Faire has over 100,000 brands, and everything is so well organized and easy to navigate,” she says. 

Robyn is able to filter Faire’s selection by diet (e.g., gluten- or dairy-free), flavors, shelf life, storage requirements, and more. Once items start hitting shopping baskets, she looks to her employees for feedback on reorders.“I rely on my 18 employees (across Winston’s and handmade. la conner) a lot, and ask them what they love,” she says. “Often, I hear, ‘Can you order more of that?’ ”

In the business for 15 years, Robyn has been to her share of trade shows. But now that she’s unlocked the convenience of Faire, she’s streamlined her process, freeing herself up to focus on running her store. “Trade shows are a lot of work and cost so much money,” she says. Sure, there’s the benefit of being able to taste-test new products and see their packaging in person. “But I’d rather spend $200 to buy something on Faire and decide once I get it if I want more.” If she doesn’t like a product, she can utilize Faire’s free returns on opening orders. “Faire removes the need to spend thousands of dollars to go to a different state to attend a show,” she says.  

Trade shows are a lot of work and cost so much money. I’d rather spend $200 to buy something on Faire and decide once I get it if I want more.

Robyn Bradley, Owner, Winston’s General

In place of catalogs and line sheets, “the Faire app makes everything a lot easier,” Robyn says. “It’s so simple to access from anywhere.” Instead of slogging through dog-eared pages of products she might buy in the future, Robyn bookmarks them on Faire for later. “When I’m ready to buy, I just scroll through my shopping carts to see what I left for myself.” 

A risk-free recipe for local tastemaking

Historically, Robyn was constantly on the phone or email managing every one of her wholesale accounts. “It was an endless back-and-forth of communication,” she explains. “It would take a long time to fill out line sheets and enter orders. Faire completely removes that busy work, and I love that I can order and send messages in the same spot.” 

That straightforward line of communication ensures Robyn gets exactly what she expects from each delivery. “I want everything I buy to be something that you want to leave out and look at,” Robyn explains. In fact, packaging is the number one thing she messages sellers about. “I want to know what it’s going to look like: Is it in a box? A bag? Will I have to repackage it?” She can message the brand directly through Faire’s mobile or desktop app to clear up those details before she purchases.

As a member of Faire’s Insider program for US retailers, Robyn receives free shipping on select domestic brands, as well as early access to Faire’s virtual trade shows and newest arrivals. Should she ever encounter an issue, she can reach out directly. “If something’s damaged or broken, I can contact the seller right away on Faire,” Robyn explains. “Since everything I need is in one place, I don’t have to run all over the internet looking for someone’s email.”

If Robyn wants to reimagine her shelves at any point and try something new, she’s built enough clout as a local tastemaker to trust her gut. Knowing Faire prioritizes quality vendors, she can focus on finding the right products with the right branding. Because, as it turns out, the kind of small-town store Robyn would visit is a place her customers have come to love, too. Just take a look outside her store on a sunny day, and you’ll find happy patrons trying new snacks, sipping wine, and enjoying the view.

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