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Delivering the goods: Order groceries online or by phone

| Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grocery shopping presented a problem for Ilene Sirocca.

Sirocca, 62, is blind. Her mother, Mildred, is 91. The two live together in their Morningside home and rely on a shared transportation program.

"I could go with a shopping buddy, but sometimes they get the wrong thing rather than what you really wanted," said Sirocca.

In January, Sirocca found a solution with Best Grocery Delivery, an online company run by Lisa Hildreth from her Churchill home. Now, Sirocca places an order online using her screen-reading computer and has groceries delivered to her home every two or three weeks.

The option to order groceries online is becoming more available to Pittsburghers. Effortless Shopping, an online outfit based in South Fayette, opened in January. Another smaller brick-and-mortar grocer, Right by Nature in the Strip District, also offers online delivery services. Brilliant Market in Aspinwall offers free delivery to customers who phone in their orders.

"Major stores on the West Coast do this already," said Hildreth, 44. "It's coming this way."

Hildreth started her company in November after searching for a delivery service for her elderly mother to no avail.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," she said.

Hildreth works as a medical transcriptionist but said voice recognition was "putting her out of business." Now, she spends almost 30 hours a week grocery shopping for her 350 clients.

"It makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing," she said. "When serving the elderly and handicapped people, it makes me feel good."

Each day, Hildreth combs through the deals at local grocery stores such as Giant Eagle, Shop 'n Save and Kuhn's, and lists all the sales on her site.

Online, shoppers can peruse nearly 10,000 items categorized on the site -- everything from baby food to fresh fruits and vegetables.

There are organic options and a Middle Eastern food section. Hildreth offers college packages, packed with a variety of chips, energy drinks and, of course, Ramen noodles.

Once a list is compiled, clients check out using PayPal, and a driver will take their groceries to their front doors within a designated time frame chosen by shoppers.

The service is helpful for people with aging parents, Hildreth said, citing one client who lives in California and uses the site to send groceries to her mother in the South Hills.

"It's great for seniors or anybody who just can't get out to shop as often as they want to," Sirocca said.

In addition to groceries, Effortless Shopping will deliver orders from pharmacies and shops such as Kohl's or Macy's, said company representative Mary Semich.

Semich, 50, of South Fayette, thought of the idea while recovering from a surgery.

"I thought it would be so nice to have somebody do this for me," she said. "It's a good thing for seniors, new mothers or just people working a lot."

Giant Eagle has no plans for an online grocery delivery service, said spokesman Dick Roberts. However, some Pittsburgh markets are open to the idea.

Right by Nature in the Strip District started offering grocery curbside pickup and home delivery last year. It typically delivers within 3 miles of the store but can go farther for bigger orders, said General Manager Jason Brown.

"We have a great number of customers who have a number of children. If you have five children under age 10, it's difficult to get to the grocery store and shop effectively," he said.

To your door

Local grocery delivery options:

Best Grocery Delivery: The delivery charge is $2.50 for the first order, $8 thereafter, plus 5 to 10 percent of the total order. Same-day delivery costs $20. There is a $50 order minimum. Available in about a 20-mile radius of Downtown. Online: .

Brilliant Market: The small Aspinwall grocer offers same-day delivery service for orders called into the store before 11 a.m. $20 minimum. Delivery is free. Delivers mainly to communities in the Fox Chapel Area School District and Oakmont. Call 412-781-4111.

Effortless Shopping: The delivery charge is $10 plus 10 percent of the total order. Delivers mainly to the South and West suburbs. Visit .

Right By Nature: The Strip District grocer, which sells natural and organic foods, charges $4.95 for home delivery. Visit .

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