Like Father, Like Daughter-Dena Green's Story
Author: B&E Meats and Seafood
October 17, 2018
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Born into the B & E company, Dena was just 6 years old in 1999 when her parents, Jeff and Trish Green, purchased the company from his parents/aunt and uncle, Bob and Jean/Earl and Rita. “It was their transition and also mine,” she says. "My mom‘s mom lived with us and I got to spend time with her as well as my B & E grandparents. Mostly I remember my parents’ after-hours work—scrubbing the floor and doing bookwork after the stores closed. There was a mini-cart used in the back and I would sit in it like a go-cart. They taught me to spin it! Back then, we weren’t open on Sundays, but we were there almost every Sunday."
"I would stand by a 5-gallon bucket with gloves and apron on, hands in the air, just hoping a customer would come in, not realizing we weren’t even open. On Saturdays, mom and I would run errands to get supplies for our house-made marinades."
"We didn’t have a B & E delivery van back then, so we would pick things up and take them to both Burien and Des Moines. Every time, my mom promised to take me to Burger King. We would get the same thing: #8, a plain crispy chicken sandwich."
When Dena was in pre-school, the owner, Jeanne Ossman, drove a huge, baby blue van and took the kids everywhere. They’d go to the airport and ride the train (back when you could), and she always brought them into B & E. “We’d go in and get summer sausage to snack on. Even years later when my friends would come back from college, we’d go in for summer sausage!”
When Dena was 13-14 and in junior high school, she would go to the store on Saturdays and help her mom make marinades. “I would have rather continued to watch videos on the portable player, but it was my parents’ idea to get me working. The Kalbi marinades took two people, one for the wet version and one for the dry version. I also helped make the beef jerky for all the stores".
"Making jerky is labor intensive. I used to hang the jerky all by myself; now it’s a production and done at the Burien store. It takes all day and sometimes we still run out. You have to hang it on racks, hundreds of pounds a day. The meat is really cold. Sometimes I wore mittens with the gloves over them. I’d have to stop and soak my hands in warm water, and I’d stand on buckets to reach the higher racks. My parents would say ‘You can leave when it’s finished,’ so I’d try to work really fast. My schedule was pretty full at the time. I had a bible class from 8-9 a.m. in my junior and senior years. Then I’d go to Highline for 1-2 classes depending on the day, leaving between 11 and noon. I’d go to the Des Moines store and work until volleyball practice at 4 p.m. Even on prom night, I had to do the jerky that Saturday.”
Despite her long history at the store, when she was 17 and ‘forced’ to work the counter, she was extremely nervous. “I’ve always been super social, so I’m not sure why customers made me nervous. I’m fine now, but it lasted a long time. Once in a while, a customer didn’t want me to wait on them. It may have been because I was young. You can’t take it personally. It helps me to talk with others in the same position. My friend Madysen and her sister, of Owens Meat in Cle Elum, face the same issues. I’m really happy to have that connection.”
At age 18, she wanted to try something different. Dena got a job at Carlisle, a company that makes wire fabrications used by Boeing and others. She joined their HR department, spending 50% of her time as the receptionist and 50% doing HR tasks. “The department oversaw 600 people,” she recalls. “We worked Monday-Friday and were paid weekly. I had a direct deposit of $500 every Friday. It was so awesome! But the work was stressful, and I realized I preferred to be the 8th employee at our Des Moines store vs. one of 600 at a larger company.”
In addition to customer service, Dena now handles ordering, product review (when people want the store to carry an item), new hire training, and is working toward doing new hire orientation. Dena says the biggest lesson she’s learned from her parents and Bob and Earl is simply to be nice to customers.
“They always say we should be thankful for our customers. You never know what kind of day they’ve had, so we need to make their visit a good experience. And it can be more convenient to just go to the grocery store, so we’re grateful they choose to come to B & E.”
Thinking about the future, there are many ideas to consider. Maybe a food truck, home delivery or more brick and mortar locations. “People ask almost every day if we’d consider opening in Federal Way. Covington is another area that gets brought up."
"Maybe more important is what I’d like to see stay the same: the family vibe, the loyal staff, the regular customers we have. I want to continue to improve on knowing what our customers’ regular orders are, their names and family."
"Ron, one of our employees, always knows everything about customers, including their dogs’ names. I want to be that good! My family has always been generous in terms of giving out large samples and I want to keep that going. I also like the way we help educate people about the products and how to cook them. I know how to cook almost everything we sell, so I can give people ideas and tips. One of the first things I tell them is to get a meat thermometer. It makes all the difference, and we sell them in our stores.”
Dena’s B & E favorite right now is the stuffed salmon. “I also love the turkey jerky, despite having made so much jerky over the years! I still love the summer sausage, that’s a childhood favorite. I really like the Kalbi chicken thighs and the garlic herb chicken. People think we eat prime rib and lobster all the time, but my favorite meat is ground beef and I like to make meatloaf. But I also love pasta, bread and pizza!”