Revamped Bashas' Diné Market Brings Healthy Living to Navajo Nation

Jim Dudlicek
Editorial Director
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The Window Rock store's leadership team includes (from left) Corrine Mitchell, store director; Harold Arviso, meat cutter; and Sasha Gilmore, Starbucks manager

Helping folks on the Navajo Nation make healthier food choices is a no-brainer for Bashas’.

After all, the Chandler, Ariz.-based grocery chain has basically been the official supermarket for Native Americans in the Grand Canyon State for nearly four decades.

So when it came time for the retailer to remodel its store in the Navajo Nation’s capital of Window Rock, Ariz., a focus on supporting a healthier lifestyle was part of the package.

Shoppers can still get authentic Navajo fry bread, mutton stew and other staples that are part of the native diet. But the Bashas’ Diné Market store in Window Rock, which has served its community since 1989, now features enhanced organic food offerings and a new shelf-tag system to better call out healthier food selections.

That, plus a décor package that showcases the work of local artists, as well as the first-ever Starbucks coffee shop on the Navajo Nation, results in a brand-new shopping experience.

“There has been a big focus on increasing health-and-wellness options within the Navajo Nation during the past few years, and our Bashas’ Diné Markets continue to step up to the plate in providing education, access and support of healthier eating and active-lifestyle choices,” explains Johnny Basha, VP of special projects for Bashas’ Family of Stores.

Last year, the retailer launched its Diné Healthy labeling program, which easily identifies nearly 400 better-for-you food options in each department through store signage.

“Additionally, we remerchandised the store to provide extra visibility of these healthier items, and encouraged healthy living through community partnerships with COPE’s [Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment] Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program,” Basha says.

Interior design elements include department names in Navajo as well as in English, and artwork created by native artists, features that make the store more welcome to shoppers

Those moves are part of Bashas’ overall goal to create a more pleasant atmosphere for shoppers, enhance its focus on fresh and healthy foods while continuing its commitment to serve the Navajo community, and honor their culture through design, art, and product and service offerings.

‘A True Revitalization’

The Window Rock revamp is one of the latest projects in an aggressive store remodel strategy that began in 2015 targeting all of the banners within Bashas’ Family of Stores throughout Arizona, including Bashas’ Supermarkets, AJ’s Fine Foods, Food City and Diné Markets. By the time of the Window Rock store’s grand reopening, nearly half of Bashas’ roughly 100 stores had been remodeled.

“While we had addressed things on and off over the years, it was time for a true revitalization of the store and its offerings — not only for customers, but also for our members,” Basha says of the Window Rock store.  

And Bashas’ business relationship with the Navajo Nation goes deeper than simply building stores and selling groceries.

“Product selections and merchandising strategies have always been the result of a cooperative effort between community residents, community leadership and Bashas’, and the selections we make together are culturally based rather than by measurable demographics, as would be typical,” Basha explains.

Product and merchandising strategies also reflect the shopping habits of large extended families who visit the store biweekly or monthly, he says.

“The Navajo language is more oral than written, so the interior of the store is more visual. Native design, symbols and decorative art [are] prominent throughout the store,” Basha notes. Even the name — Diné, meaning “the people” — was reflective of the fact that the stores were created by and for the Navajo people.

The Diné Market in Window Rock now prominently displays 21 pieces of art from local Navajo artists. Part of an interior designed by Tammy Fontaine, director of the Eddie Basha Collection, an archive of native and western art gathered by the retailer’s late former CEO, the featured artists include Baje Whitethorne, a Reed clan member who is known for colorful landscapes depicting the Navajo Reservation, as well as portraits of his people; Larry Yazzie, whose sculpture works of women symbolizing strength are highly sought after by collectors; and trailblazer Oreland Joe, whose work captures his Ute and Navajo heritage.

“The moment you step into the Bashas’ Diné Market in Window Rock, you can see and feel the difference,” Basha says. “The store has some of the same offerings as a traditional Bashas’ supermarket, such as variety; however, in this store, you will find department signage written in both English and the native Navajo language. The store design includes colors that are representative of the natural land around the Window Rock community.”