By Gary Crawford
The Tri-Cities has long said it would love to welcome a
Trader Joe’s, a second Costco and an IKEA furniture store.
But until that happens, consider hiring a courier to do runs
to your favorite store for you.
Two local drivers have found their niche and started their
own independent courier services.
Nick Black of Richland started his side hustling early in
2018 by driving for Uber and Lyft.
But his eureka moment came while he was driving for
“I had a customer who ordered a $7 coffee but was willing to
pay $12 extra for delivery,” he said.
This realization of the premium some people will pay for convenience started him on the road to launching Top One Solutions.
Black, a teacher by day at Chiawana High School, heads to
Portland about once a month, on Friday nights, to pick up customer orders at
IKEA and shop on their behalf at Trader Joe’s.
His minimum charge for IKEA runs is $25 per order, for
orders up to $125. For orders more than $125, he charges a sliding scale. For
example, 25 percent for orders up to $750, 23 percent on orders from $751 to
$1,200, and 20 percent for orders above $1201.
For Trader Joe’s runs, he charges a $15 base service charge,
plus 10 percent of the cost of the groceries.
It’s a price many are happy to pay to save themselves the
time and gas driving to Portland or Seattle, Black said.
For IKEA orders, Black has customers buy from IKEA in
advance and gives instructions to the store that he will pick up the items on
The orders are waiting when he arrives and he can load with
Black noted that IKEA does have shipping available, but it
contracts the shipping to a freight hauler.
Most of Black’s repeat clients are Trader Joe’s customers,
but he admits that fulfilling them is time consuming since he takes a more
Trader Joe’s does not offer online ordering.
For Black, this means consolidating several shopping lists,
navigating the store aisles and long checkout lines.
After leaving the store, he loads frozen and perishable
items in chests with cold packs before heading back to the Tri-Cities.
Repeat customers for IKEA are infrequent except for a small
cohort of “maker ladies” who have crafting side hustles. They place repeat
orders for welcome mats and throw pillows that they personalize and resell,
Black said that as Top One Solutions evolves, he is looking
at ways to increase his profits and add more services.
He now offers monthly wine club pickup from Prosser and
Walla Walla wineries, with home delivery, a service that ranges from $20 to
This is a welcome departure from the 400-mile roundtrip to
Portland, especially when hauling with his trailer means averaging 7 miles per
gallon, which has hurt his bottom line due to the recent increases in gas
prices, he said.
Michael Wilcsek founded Walla Walla to Costco to You in 2007 as a shopping and delivery service for people or businesses in Walla Walla who appreciate Costco’s prices and quality but find the time driving back and forth daunting.
Wilcsek, who has worked for Costco since 1984, currently in
the receiving department, moved to Walla Walla about 12 years ago.
When his neighbors started asking him to pick up items at
the Kennewick membership-only warehouse store to save them the trip, he
realized that this could turn into a side business that would pay for his
commuting costs, while also putting extra dollars in his pocket.
He charges $15 for orders up to $100, and then $5 for every
$50 above the $100 threshold.
His has a base of about 100 customers.
His typical customers are the elderly or young families who
do not have the means or time to make the two-hour roundtrip.
Michael said that for many people in Walla Walla, a trip to
Costco becomes an “event day that includes additional shopping and lunch at the
Also, while most of his customers are in Walla Walla, he
will deliver to communities along his commute home. He also services customers
in Dayton and Athena, Oregon.
Customers can place orders by emailing him, and payment can
be made by cash or check.
Wilcsek works a 4 a.m. to noon shift at Costco and does his
customer shopping after his shift ends.
A typical shopping list includes meat, dairy and produce,
but he anticipates upticks based on the season.
For example, he has delivered big items like gazebos in the
spring and flat screen televisions in advance of Super Bowl games.
He also has several wineries which order disposable wine
glasses and cheese platters in advance of their events.
When asked about the future of his business, Wilcsek said he
plans “to continue it until he retires in about 10 years, or until Costco
decides to build a store in Walla Walla, whichever comes first.”
Walla Walla to Costco to You: costcotoyou.com; 509-522-4625.
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