When customers walk into any business owned by Stormans, Inc. between December 26th and January 31st, an unusual sight greets them: employees dressed in casual attire sporting stickers that say, ‘I’m Dressing Down to Support United Way.’ The innovative workplace campaign has raised between $5,000 and $8,000 for United Way for the past 20 years.
Through the program, employees can buy casual dress days from their store directors for $3.00 apiece, with a minimum of five days for $15.00. Anyone spending $100 or more buys unlimited dress-down days and receives a $15 Starbucks gift card, while those who spend $250 or more also get one additional paid vacation day. “We wanted to provide an incentive to the staff by giving something back,” says Vice President Greg Stormans. “The model has worked well, and the program has been successful for a long time.”
Founder Ralph Stormans opened the first store in 1944, then known as Ralph’s Food Center. Today, the fourth generation of the family-run company owns Ralph’s Thriftway, Bayview Thriftway, Northwest Remedies Compounding Pharmacy, Bayview Catering, Bayview School of Cooking and Celebrations.
Employees can wear what they want within specific parameters. Clothes must be clean; faded jeans are okay, t-shirts are not. Most importantly, they need to wear a sticker that allows shoppers to identify them as staff members and promotes conversation. “The stickers and the casual dress create a dialogue about the fact that I, as a staff member, am helping to meet the needs of our local people through supporting United Way,” says Stormans. “There’s a social element to it, and customers respond to that.”
Employees respect that United Way provides resources for multiple organizations throughout the community. Staff members who are passionate about different causes can be confident their donations will be maximized. “United Way looks at a broad base of issues in the community,” Stormans notes. “People know that their donations are being used for people who have a variety of needs. It’s not just focused on one thing.”
He also appreciates how United Way adapts to the needs of any given era while maintaining its core mission. “Their model is built around what the needs are today,” says Stormans. “In 20 years, those will change in terms of who they fund and why, but as an organization, United Way is always looking to support those with the greatest needs.”
Giving back is part of the company’s DNA. When he started the business, Ralph Stormans maintained that one of its responsibilities was to support the community in as many ways as possible. “That’s our business model,” Stormans explains. “It’s important as a business that you don’t just have something to sell but have something to give.”