What Breaking $2 Million Means for Co-op Members

What Breaking $2 Million Means for Co-op Members

millionManager Debbie Burgan on Loyalty, Passion and Why Numbers Matter

Debbie Burgan believes that Co-op members want to support the store – they may just not know how. Information, says the Yelm Co-op Manager, was a key to breaking $1 million in sales after less than ten years of operation. “It was important to make our members aware of what we were trying to do,” she says. “Once Tina Maggio made a sign showing our goal, they stepped up and did more.”

Burgan has been a key player with the Co-op since its beginning back in 2005. “There was so much passion to open this store,” she says. “We literally opened it up on  a wing and a prayer. We knew it was going to work. In the first few years, we had so little, just a lot of customers who wanted the store as much as we did. We still have that customer base.”

Expanding that base is a key for the Co-op to hit the next target. Breaking the $2 million threshold would be the first step in allowing the store to apply for membership with the National Grocers Cooperative Association, which would provide multiple benefits, including buying power. “If we can get the buying power that other co-ops have, our buying structure changes,” says Burgan. “That benefit would get passed on to our members.”

“I don’t think it will take us long to hit the second million,” she says. “We just need more of our members to show support by spending 80% of their grocery dollars with us.”  Right now, a core of approximately 200+ members are doing exactly that. Were that number to double, the additional revenue would make a lot of improvements possible, such as a deli section.

Doing the numbers comes easily to Burgan, who came to the Co-op after wrapping up a corporate career in the software industry. “I wanted to find a place where I could take the best of corporate structure and the best of what people wanted for the Co-op and bring them together,” she says.  Here’s one more number she has in mind: “I want to see six cash registers at the Co-op and they’re all busy.”

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Ice Chip Grannies’ Other Company Adds Humor to Health

Ice Chip Grannies’ Other Company Adds Humor to Health

ice chip granniesBefore Ice Chips Candy, before Shark Tank, before Beverly Vines-Haines and Charlotte Clary were the ‘Ice Chip Grannies’, there was Healing Leaf. This original line of all-natural salves was one of the first companies created by Vines-Haines and Clary (aka ‘the grannies’), and is still close to their hearts. “Healing Leaf is a perfect reflection of our goal to create natural and safe skin care products,” says Vines-Haines.

Their first invention was created as a way to help a friend who was suffering from a severe fungal infection. “He was an Air Force pilot who had served three tours in Vietnam and often had to wear heavy boots for days at a time. So we formulated an anti-fungal salve, went out and bought the ingredients, and cooked their invention up on Charlotte’s stove,” says Vines-Haines.  They mailed it off to their friend and eventually they heard from him that it worked.

From there, they went on to create a slew of products bearing creative names like Zappa Zit (acne solution), Splat! (Food Stain Remover) and Ahhh . . .  (muscle relief). The Yelm Co-op currently carries Sandal Toes (Nail Fungus Solution), Skin Wizard (Skin Care Solution), Massage in a Bottle (Extreme Joint Pain Relief ), and Psoria-Cease (Psoriasis Solution), which tends to fly off the shelves.  They are all non-GMO and are not petroleum based, unlike many skin care lines. “Often people forget products placed on their skin or scalp are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and circulating through their bodies,” says Vines-Haines.

While Ice Chips takes up much of their time, “we intend to continue our focus on natural products whenever possible,” says Vines-Haines. “We have employees who are well trained in making our skin care products and they often give us ideas and suggestions. Charlotte and I have many ideas we hope to implement in the future and our health and beauty aid line has a bright future.”

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Manager Jutta Dewell: Make the Co-op Your Meeting Spot

Manager Jutta Dewell: Make the Co-op Your Meeting Spot

co-op funWalk into the co-op on most days and you’ll inevitably run into Manager Jutta Dewell – inevitably, because Jutta has been pivotal to the life of the store. You might think that she was born knowing about gluten and GMOs, started volunteering for great causes in pre-school, and has always embraced the world of retail. You’d be wrong.

“In Germany, I worked for a car rental company and oversaw many, many BMWs,” she says. “Before I came here I’d never worked in retail and didn’t even know what a co-op was. I used to go to the one in Olympia and think, ‘Oh my God, it’s so expensive.” But when the idea for the Yelm Co-op was conceived nearly a decade ago, she became a member of the steering committee and was part of the team that led to the opening of the store. She continued to volunteer, at one point becoming a board member, and today, she’s one of three managers.

“I’ve never been a volunteer in my life before coming here,” she says, “ but I had the time to do it, and they needed help.” Years of volunteering and contributing in any way she could eventually led to her current position. “I was part of creating my own job,” she explains. “I was happy to do that. This is different than just working for a company.”

The experience has given her a special appreciation for those who donate their time today.  “I am impressed with how many people contribute. That is something I’ve never experienced before. Without working members and volunteers, we could not make it,” she contends. “We can’t pay everybody, unfortunately, and it’s amazing.  We have some volunteers who come every week, several times.”
To Jutta, ambience is a critical component. “The atmosphere has to be nice,” she says, “for the volunteers and also for the customers.  You want to come here. That’s what I always think. Just enjoy the atmosphere or learn something, or meet someone that you know and can talk to – that’s part of it all.”

Over the years, she’s been continually inspired by the idea of a sovereign community. “The co-op is part of that,” she says. “No corporation owns us. Our goal is to have more and more local people sell their products here. We also educate people about what it really means for the economy when you buy locally. More people are waking up to the fact that the food they eat is not the best. They are coming to the store and they want to know. That’s where I see the co-op is so important.”

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Sneaky’s Takes the ‘Junk’ Out of Junk Food

Sneaky’s Takes the ‘Junk’ Out of Junk Food

tish and sneakysThere you are, strolling the aisles of the Co-op and virtuously filling your cart with fruit, vegetables, and a few products whose names you can’t pronounce but they look healthy. Your intentions are good, your heart is pure – and then you get home. “If you’re like me, you buy all of these healthy foods but then the first thing to go is a bag of potato chips,”says Tish Watford. “Where we tend to break down a lot is in the snack department.” Her solution was to invent Sneaky’s, popcorn dusted with nutrient rich spirulina powder that is made of all organic, non-GMO, gluten-free ingredients.

“I hope that people will see it as a way of creatively incorporating  superfoods in something other than smoothies,” she says, “especially parents. Maybe it will light a creative spark.” She also hopes that Sneaky’s will help people “rethink what they’re buying; each ingredient and the purpose it serves. In the broader sense, it’s about understanding what’s in our food. Why is this in here?”

“Where we tend to break down a lot is in the snack department.”

Tish’s first taste-testers were her parents. She was living in a small town in Alabama that didn’t really have any healthy food options. After a visit to neighboring Tuscaloosa, she brought home some spirulina. Her son wanted popcorn, so she decided to experiment with it. “It was a little salty at first,” she laughs. Since moving to Olympia, she’s perfected the product and introduced it into local health food stores, including the Yelm Food Co-op.

Before launching Sneaky’s, the only business she’d owned was in tax preparation. Tish holds a master’s degree in accounting and financial management. “The food world is so much different from offering a service,” she says. “It’s so good to be in this area. I’ve learned a lot on my own but also from other Olympia-area foodpreneurs. Everyone is ready to share their knowledge.”

Her next step is an alternative version of kettle corn “without the corn syrup,” she says. For now, look for spirulina Sneaky’s in the snack section of the Yelm Food Co-op. You can put it right next to your vegetables.
Photo by Jennifer Crain

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Watching the Baby Grow Up: Robyn Hawk on Yelm Co-op Then and Now

Watching the Baby Grow Up: Robyn Hawk on Yelm Co-op Then and Now

robyn hawkFor Robyn Hawk, the Yelm Food Cooperative resembles a child she gets to see grow up. “It’s like a baby that’s been well-nourished,” she says. She ought to know. Robyn has been volunteering almost since the store’s inception, and she has seen all of the growing pains and changes that have occurred along the way. She is inspired by both the people who have stuck with it since the beginning, and the relatively new arrivals. “I wholeheartedly know that everything that goes on in the co-op is authentic and of pure intent,” she says. “Everybody gives of their heart and soul, paid and not paid.”

She remembers how the store began ten years ago. “A very small handful of people somehow got another small handful of people to get a fair amount of money so that they could start this co-op, based just on everybody’s brilliance,” she recalls. “Debbie Burgan, Tom and Jutta Dewell gave and continue to give their lives to it. Florence Vincent came in later, but she was amazing – because she was a different buyer. She researched everything and she was European. Rebecca Galbraith used to be there day after day in the small store. I’d say,’How can you be here and work so many hours?’ She’d just be sitting on the stool.”

The current leaders are equally dedicated, in her view. “Barnaby* is incredible,” she says. “The board that we have now is extraordinary. Bill Wyman** and that group are visionaries. There are so many people who do things behind the scenes.”

Compared to the early days of co-ops, she says, this store is extremely well run – and relatively tame. When she managed a co-op in the small town of Cave Junction, Oregon thirty-five years ago, “We used to meet the trucks on one of the side roads at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning,” she says.  “For a while the cops would stop us. We would just load the products from their pick up to our pick up and go to somebody’s house.” Twenty people would gather around a table at the local alternative school once a week to place orders and once their shipments arrived, they would weigh everything and divvy it up between customers. “It was the very beginning of co-ops,” she says.

Today, volunteering at the Yelm Co-op allows her to fulfill a childhood dream. “Ever since I was a little kid, when we’d play house, I wanted to work with a cash register,” she explains, “but I’m totally dyslexic. There’s nowhere else on the planet that they’d let me run a cash register. It’s so fun for me. I love it. Working at the co-op is one of my favorite things that I do.”

*Barnaby Urich Rintz is the Yelm Food Cooperative’s General Manager.

**Bill Wyman is the Yelm Food Cooperative’s Board President.   

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For Brothers, Necessity Was the Mother of Liberty Lotion

For Brothers, Necessity Was the Mother of Liberty Lotion

4oz_libertylotion_productpicFor the Garner brothers, necessity really was the mother of invention. Samson Garner sustained a massive spinal injury several years ago and became a medical marijuana patient to deal with his pain levels. Not satisfied, he began to experiment with different ingredients in an attempt to create something that would be more effective. “The first draft was a combination of hash oil and coconut oil,” says his brother Levi. “It took him two years to get to the point where it was ready for market.” The end result is Liberty Lotion, a pain relief product that includes hemp oil and emu oil. Samson is in charge of production while Levi runs the business side.

For one local Yelm resident*, the lotion has been a godsend. After eight surgeries on one hip and another hip that had been broken in four places, the 84-year-old was in constant pain. “You learn to live with it and realize things like you can’t get out of the bathtub or your bed any more without pain,” she says. The first time she tried Liberty Lotion, she was amazed to realize that the pain was gone.

Levi recommends that people with chronic pain use the lotion heavily for two weeks, then ease up. “It’s like a time release capsule,” he says. “It takes time for the body to absorb the CBD (the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis).” After that, he says, they should notice a significant decrease in their pain levels.

The sales team for Liberty Lotion (whom the brothers have given the title “Proper Gentlemen” rather than sales reps)  are long-term friends who were converted by the product’s effects. “They were in the construction industry,” says Levi. “They came over after an 18-hour day of pressure washing amd tried the product. The next day they quit their jobs and joined us.”

Meanwhile in Yelm, our 84-year-old friend uses Liberty Lotion for very deep bone, joint and muscle pain. In her experience, it usually takes about 45 minutes to take full effect. “Now I’m able to get things done around my property, weed the garden and take care of all the little things,” she says. “It’s given me my life back.”

Liberty Lotion is now available at the Yelm Co-op. Check the front display racks or ask a clerk for help.

*She prefers to remain anonymous.

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Meet the Manager: Kate Morgan on Food Security and Community Backbone

Meet the Manager: Kate Morgan on Food Security and Community Backbone

kateKate Morgan was raised on a steady diet of co-ops. “Since I was little, my family have always been big co-op shoppers,” she says and in fact her mother Linda was one of the first members of the Yelm Food Cooperative. “She was always telling me that I had to come in the store, and I got excited and wanted to help.” That desire led her to volunteer four years ago, and today,  Kate is one of three managers who share responsibility for the store under the direction of General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz. “I love educating people about food and food security,” she says.

The store provides plenty of opportunity. According to Kate, “In Yelm, people may come in because they’re starting to experience some food or health related issues or they hear about it in the news. There’s a lot of explaining of what a co-op is in the first place.” That makes the store’s progress in its first five years even more impressive. “Sometimes we get calls from other start-up co-ops that want to know, ‘How did you do that?’” she says, smiling. “We started with way less money than a lot of co-ops, and we broke a million dollars in sales this year. That’s really incredible.”

She also appreciates working with a group of dedicated volunteers and local farmers to grow food security and sustainability in Yelm. “I’m very excited about what Karen Rae is doing with the Farmers’ Market branch of the co-op, because it’s something we haven’t had in this community,” she says. “Linking customers from farm to table and selling some of those products at the store creates a stronger food backbone in the community that can support itself and ride out hurdles.”

“Linking customers from farm to table and selling some of those products at the store creates a stronger food backbone in the community that can support itself and ride out hurdles.”

For example, she points out, currently the store is carrying produce from local farmer Mari Mann’s greenhouse. “There have been all of these freezes going on in the south, but we have this supply that’s local and fresh, and the price isn’t affected by what’s going on in the country or in the world.”

Although her degree from The Evergreen State College is in physics, she also learned about working with diverse groups during her time there. She was one of the original coordinators of what is now The Flaming Eggplant student-run cafe. “It started out in a class,” she explains. “We created the groundwork and got the vote passed by the students in order to collect a fee to get the start-up money. I had to learn how to delegate, form committees, and communicate within the different groups in a setting where they had other classes, so we had to work together with the different priorities.” That experience has definitely helped her in her managerial role, she says.  .

Kate believes that the Yelm Food Cooperative plays an important role in the community. “I love that we’re fighting back against the drive-thru, big box store quality of Yelm,” she says. “I like that we can support local businesses, that we have a community strong enough that we can support local farmers.”

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Yelm Cooperative Board of Directors Needed

Yelm Food Co-op DirectorsJan 20, 2015

The Yelm Cooperative is now accepting applications for new members of the Board of Directors who can begin serving immediately.

This is a chance for people with leadership skills to join our dynamic, growing organization and help make a real difference in our community. As a federal 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, we are embarking on a new journey with many new possibilities as far as program development and funding are concerned.

The Board of Directors oversees operations of the Yelm Food Co-op store and the Yelm Farmer’s Market, both of which are already successful programs. Development of the Community Food Education Program and its Community Gardens project are still in the future, but are a major part of our overall vision for the organization.

If you feel you have the skills and the passion to advance the Yelm Cooperative into its fabulous future, please look through the Vision & Mission statement and then fill out an application (see following links). Drop your completed applications at the Yelm Food Co-op store location or email them to yfcstrategy@gmail.com.

Vision & Mission Statement

2015 YC Board Application

Board Application Skills Matrix

Be a leader in growing the Yelm Cooperative into all it can be!

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The Cure for Your Holiday Sugar Hangover

The Cure for Your Holiday Sugar Hangover

nh-preserves-apricot_21_bigLet us guess: your friends, relatives and neighbors dropped by during the holidays bearing individually wrapped chocolates, homemade cookies, pumpkin pie and more. Delicious as they undoubtedly were, at this point the sight of one more sugary concoction might send you over the edge. Fortunately, the Yelm Cooperative has an antidote: sugar-free jams, jellies and preserves from Nature’s Hollow. The company also makes honey, maple syrup and an all-natural sweetener that are perfect for anyone looking to tone down their sugar intake. As an example, while regular maple syrup has 53g of sugar per serving, Nature’s Hollow maple syrup has zero.

The secret ingredient is Xylitol, a natural sweetener with a very low glycemic index and few calories. Nature’s Hollow uses Xylitol in all of their creations, which makes them ideal for diabetics, and those looking to manage their waistlines now that the holidays are over.  Unlike many artificial sweeteners, it also tastes good. “I love the ketchup and jams,” says co-op working member Florence Vincent. “My diet requires I cut out sugar completely, so the products are a godsend for me.”

Visit the Yelm Co-op and pick up a jar or two and kick off your new year on a healthy note!

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The EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” food additives

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Here is their 2014 list of the worst dozen food additives found in the world’s food supply.

Be an informed shopper and look out for these. As always, do your won research and draw your own conclusions.

This article (http://www.ewg.org/research/ewg-s-dirty-dozen-guide-food-additives/food-additive-watch-list) is part of our information program at the Yelm Cooperative.


Nitrites and nitrates are used as preservatives in cured meats such asbacon, salami, sausages and hot dogs. Nitrites, which can form from nitrates, react with naturally occurring components of protein calledamines. This reaction can form nitrosamines, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Nitrosamines can form in nitrite or nitrate-treated meat or in the digestive tract.


Potassium bromate is used to strengthen bread and cracker dough and help it rise during baking. It is listed as a known carcinogen by the state of California, and the international cancer agency classifies it as a possible human carcinogen (IARC 1999; OEHHA 2014).


Propyl paraben is used as a preservative in foods such as tortillas, muffins and food dyes. People can be exposed to it either as a direct additive or as result of contamination during food processing and packaging
Propyl paraben acts as a weak synthetic estrogen


A wide variety of foods contain BHA, including chips and preserved meats. It is also added to fats and to foods that contain fats and is allowed as a preservative in flavoring.

The National Toxicology Program classifies it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” the international cancer agency categorizes it as a possible human carcinogen, and it’s listed as a known carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65 (NTP 2011; IARC 1986; OEHHA 2014).


Is not a listed carcinogen, but some data have shown that it does cause cancer in animals. Rats fed BHT have developed lung and liver tumors (EFSA 2012). BHT has also been shown to cause developmental effects and thyroid changes in animals, suggesting that it may be able to disrupt endocrine signaling (EFSA 2012)


Propyl gallate is used as a preservative in products that contain edible fats, such as sausage and lard. It is classified as GRAS even though a National Toxicology Program study reported an association with tumors in male rats and rare brain tumors in two female rats (NTP 1982


An alkaloid found in chocolate that has effects similar to caffeine.  The producer’s estimated average human consumption rate was five times higher than the level the company reported as safe (NRDC FOIA 2013). But it is now listed as GRAS without the FDA’s approval.


The truth is that when you see the word “flavor” on a food label, you have almost no clue what chemicals may have been added to the food under the umbrella of this vague term.
In addition to the flavor-adding chemicals themselves, flavor mixtures often contain natural or artificial emulsifiers, solvents and preservatives that are called “incidental additives,” which means the manufacturer does not have to disclose their presence on food labels.


Artificial colors are often used to increase the appeal of foods that have little nutritional value. Questions have been raised about the safety of one class of synthetic colors, called FD&C (Food, Drug & Cosmetics) colors, and contaminants in other artificial colorings as well.


Diacetyl, used as a butter flavoring in microwave popcorn, is associated with a severe and irreversible respiratory condition called bronchiolitis obliterans, which leads to inflammation and permanent scarring of the airways


Phosphates are frequently added to unhealthy highly processed foods, including fast foods. In people with chronic kidney disease, high phosphate levels in the body are associated with heart disease and death (Ritz 2012).


Additives containing aluminum, such as sodium aluminum phosphate and sodium aluminum sulfate, are used as stabilizers in many processed foods.  While significant scientific uncertainty remains around whether there may be links between aluminum-based food additives and health effects, their widespread use warrants putting them on the “watch list.”

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Celebrating the Co-op Team

Celebrating the Co-op Team

DSC02527Everyone contributes. Some may do one four-hour shift a week, others may help with specific events like Beer & Brats, while still others may work more than two shifts per week. But throughout the year, everyone connected with the Yelm Food Cooperative, employees, volunteers, and working members all support its success. Those contributions were recognized at the annual Appreciation Party on December 14th in a festive night filled with outrageous food and great wine.  “It’s important to acknowledge the people who volunteer their time and energy to support the co-op and make it grow – to honor them for their time and energy,” says event coordinator Barbara Morando.

“I think everyone really saw how much they were appreciated because it was clear that a lot of thought and effort went into the event,” says Manager Kate Morgan. “I was really impressed with how beautiful the setting was and how much the organizers had put into it.” Local chef Dawn Young of Early Dawn’s Eatery created a delectable spread and Anne Marsh provided matching wines from the Wine Cellar of Yelm.

Volunteers are essential for the running of the store, says Kate. “They get their discount and a couple of little perks, but other than that, they don’t get a lot of appreciation. A lot of customers don’t realize that they’re volunteers.”  Board Treasurer Tom Dewell was struck by how many of the people being recognized have been part of the Co-op for years, if not from the beginning. “This organization was founded and kept alive by the hard work of people who have decided this is a cause they want to support and are willing to give time and energy to make it so,” he says.  “Volunteer-based organizations are so tenuous because those folks can walk at any time, but so many of ours have stayed and stayed and stayed.”

Aside from a chance to acknowledge everyone, the event offers another opportunity. “Even as an employee, I don’t get to interact with all the volunteers who might come in once a week,” says Kate. “People get to meet other working members and volunteers that they might not even know. Events like this form a community relationship. Getting to interface with the board and all the people involved just makes it stronger.”

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