Whole Foods Co-op Unveils Expansion

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 at 10:40 AM
Whole Foods Co-op Unveils Expansion by Alex Bieler
Joe Cottrell

I always enjoy a nice kitchen – it’s a family thing for me, since it reminds me of the massive family meals my mother would make before my siblings and I would convene for consumption at our dinner table. So when I stop by the Whole Foods Co-op, tucked away, just off of West 26th Street to see the new addition there, my eyes immediately go to the corner of the room.

After Co-op Education and Outreach Coordinator Bob Sonnenberg leads me into the revamped area, the corner kitchen grabs my attention with its alluring mix of red cabinets and green walls buoyed by the large, dark brown countertop, which Bob tells me is made of redwood recycled from a water tower. Beside the attractive cooking area, a group of people attentively listen to Produce Assistant Victoria Innes teach about good fats, bad fats, and the downright ugly fats.

The Co-op, located at 1341 W. 26th St., recently opened up the new addition for just an event like this. In addition to holding classes about health, food, yoga, and more, the Co-op also plans on renting the room out and opening up for nonprofit groups.

“Part of being a cooperative deals with work in the community,” Bob says. However, when some classes taught prior to the new addition started drawing up to 50 people, the Co-op started running out of room for all of the interested learners. “We would have it out in the café and it just didn’t work anymore.”

The new addition is a big improvement, according to Victoria, who has a master’s degree in human nutrition. Not only will the addition provide more space for when more people attend – especially important for when Victoria teaches yoga classes – the teachers will no longer have to fight against crowd noise from the store, instead being able to provide an environment more conducive for people to process information.

But why should people come to the Co-op? Well, because the Co-op can provide the means to greater well-being.

“The Co-op allows people to be successful with their health,” says Victoria. “Not only can they come to a class and sit and enjoy and learn different things, but then they can leave the class and go to the store and find the items that they need to eat or to incorporate into their diet, so it’s like the whole package.”

As a natural foods market, the Co-op provides all-natural products free of chemicals or artificial products. In addition to the healthy approach on food, the Co-op is a cooperative business, democratically controlled by a large group of owners.

“People trust us,” Bob says. “They believe us when we say that we don’t have chemicals in our food, or artificial flavorings, colorings, or sweeteners. It’s a great store, and we’ve been at this in one form or another for close to 30 years. We’re not owned by two people or three people; we’re owned by over 5,000 families. That’s another reason why people like to come – because they actually own a part of what we’re doing here, and they believe in what we’re doing.”

Some people may say that too many cooks in the kitchen can be a bad thing, but for the Co-op, the more the merrier. With the new addition, now the Co-op can add even more eager participants to its family.

Alex Bieler can be contacted at aBieler@ErieReader.com.

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