French Broad Food Co+Op

Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
90 Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
(828)255-7650 | Contact

Everyone is Welcome
Owners get 5% off on the 5th

Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
90 Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
(828)255-7650 | Contact

Everyone Welcome
Owners get 5% off on the 5th

It’s Hawthorn Time

Co-op Stronger Together

It's Hawthorn Time!

As the fall rolls in…a friend and I went out to harvest hawthorn berries. Hawthorn is one of my most beloved herbs. A wonderful heart tonic, it is both soothing and delicious. Here is a couple of recipes to inspire your herbal explorations this fall.
 

Hawthorn Rose Conserve

 
This is a recipe I have made for years, it is so very addictively delicious! This recipe is from Healing Tonics by Jeanine Pollak (a book I highly recommend) :
1/2 cup hawthorn berries (fresh if possible)
1 cup dried rose hips (cut and sifted)
3/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1+ Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
Add hawthorn berries to 2 cups boiling water and simmer over medium low heat for 1 hour. Stir often. Once decocted, let sit for another 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain and while still hot, pour over the rosehips and let sit for half hour or so. Place 1/2 of the hawthorn rose into a blender and add honey, lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon. Add more hawthorn rose as needed to get the right consistency….it should be like a thick pudding or jam. Store in the refrigerator and this should last a couple of weeks.
*Notes- Eat daily for best results, this is not only great for the heart, but high in vitamin c and helpful during the cold and flu season.
If you want to amp up the heart love in this formula, you could add tinctures of hawthorn, linden, motherwort, etc.
Enjoy!

Co-op FAQs and Facts

Co-op Stronger Together

What is a Co-op?

 

How can I distinguish a co-op from other organizations?

A co-op is a business, usually incorporated, that sells goods and services. It is not a charitable organization or a social service agency.

Who benefits from the co-op’s existence?

A co-op exists primarily for the benefit of its members. Many co-ops also support other parts of the community through various programs and philanthropic activities as part of their commitment to cooperative values and principles.

Who controls a co-op?

In a cooperative, members democratically control the direction of the business. In most co-ops each member gets one vote. Members elect a board of directors to monitor the business, set goals and hire management to operate their business. Ultimately, the board is accountable to the members for its decisions.

What motivates people to form a co-op?

In private or stockholder-owned businesses, individuals invest to earn a financial return. In a co-op, individuals are motivated by a shared need for certain products or services. By joining together, members gain access to products, services or markets not otherwise available to them. In other words, when forming a co-op members are motivated to become co-owners of the business primarily so that their mutual needs can be met. And co-ops return financial gains to their members, whether through discounts, lower costs or patronage refunds. People join existing co-ops for a variety of reasons. Whether it is the commitment to community, the democratic approach to business, the desire to be part of a business that is locally owned or something else “uniquely co-op” that appeals, anyone can join a cooperative!

Read more on Co-op Stronger Together: https://www.strongertogether.coop/food-coops/co-op-faqs-and-facts

Common Myths About Food Co-ops

Co-op Stronger Together

Common Myths About Food Co-ops

For food lovers on the hunt for fresh local produce and healthy, sustainable products, the local food co-op may be a hidden gem. Why hidden, you ask? Many people, including co-op shoppers, are not entirely sure how co-ops work—or how to get involved. Luckily, the most common misconceptions can be cleared up in a snap. Read on to get the real answers to frequently asked questions about food co-ops. You may be surprised by what you find!

Myth #1

I have to be a member to shop at the food co-op.

Fact
Everyone is welcome to shop at nearly all co-ops. Just do your shopping like you would anywhere else. Once you’ve discovered the benefits of co-op shopping, you might want to find out more about the benefits of membership, too.

Myth #2

I have to be a hippie/liberal/vegetarian/etc. to shop at the co-op.

Fact
Same answer: everyone’s welcome. Liberal or conservative, hippie or yuppie, veggie lover or bacon lover—anyone can shop co-op (that means you!).

Myth #3

Being a co-op member means I have to join the board (or work part-time at the co-op, or do something else I’m not really sure I want to do).

Fact
All you really have to do is enjoy shopping at the co-op! Sure, you can run for the board or participate in co-op events if you like, but your level of participation is always entirely up to you.

Read more myths about food co-ops on Co-op Stronger Together at https://www.strongertogether.coop/food-coops/common-myths-about-food-co-ops 

Tell The World You Own It!

Co-op Stronger Together

Tell the World You Own It

 

You may be surprised by all the types of co-ops around you. From groceries to health care, co-ops are a vital part of everyday life for people all over the globe. Consider the cup of coffee you enjoyed at breakfast. It was likely purchased from a coffee grower co-op in Africa or Central America. Or the light fixture you’re standing under might be powered with electricity from a co-op owned by people in your community.

A co-op is a business model that allows a group of people to combine their resources to meet their common needs. Grocery co-ops are one such kind of co-op. They are the true pioneers of the natural and organic food industry and they’re deeply committed to providing delicious, high quality, healthy food; supporting local, sustainable agriculture; and strengthening their communities. Cooperatives, including grocery co-ops, are much more than bricks and mortar stores. Cooperatives are built on the idea that local owners, not far-away investors, gain the benefits of business success. Simply put, cooperation is for everyone.

Read more on Co-op Stronger Together:  https://www.strongertogether.coop/food-coops/tell-the-world-you-own-it

 

I Own a Grocery Store with Some Friends

Co-op Stronger Together

I Own a Grocery Store with Some Friends

I am probably the last person you would expect to own a grocery store, and yet, I do. In fact, I own three. I am a Midwestern, married suburban mother of two, my car is twelve years old and most of my fashion finds come from the thrift store. I don’t fit the bill for corporate honcho, and my bank account corroborates that truth.

So how do I manage to own not one but three successful grocery stores? I guess in true “industry disruptor” style, I found a unique solution to a common problem: how to get the kind of food I want, and have my voice heard by a place where I shop. That solution is food co-ops. My local food co-op offers me fresh local food, a way to support my community and the opportunity to invest in the co-op, ensuring it remains a resource in our community for good.

Read more here: https://www.strongertogether.coop/article/i-own-grocery-store-some-friends

You Are the Co-op Difference

Co-op Stronger Together

You are the reason food co‑ops are here

 

Food co-ops were formed by people in your community who wanted access to healthy, delicious food with reduced environmental impact and less waste, and co-ops remain community-owned and operated to this day. You help co-ops continue this proud tradition every time you choose to shop at one, invest in ownership or tell a friend about your local food co-op. You are the co-op difference.

Thanks to co-op shopper support, local farmers and producers continue to have a market for their delicious food, organic agriculture continues to grow, local food pantries and nonprofit organizations have a strong partner and together we are making progress towards a fairer food system.

People like you make it happen. When you shop at the co-op, your money makes a bigger impact in your local community than at a typical grocery store. At the co-op, your food dollars work to support a robust local economy, a vibrant community and a healthy environment.

Read more here: https://www.strongertogether.coop/article/you-are-co-op-difference

Interview with Jeannie Dunn, owner of Red Moon

Co-op Stronger Together
Co-op Stronger Together
Melissa (FBFC):How did you first become interested in plants as food and medicine?
Jeannie: Growing up with tobacco farmer grandparents and parents who loved the land as much as their parents, I was lucky to be around my family’s you-pick/we-pick strawberry farm and vegetables we put by with canning techniques. In the 70’s, my mama was known as a bit of a weirdo in central North Carolina since she ate dandelion greens and both my parents would order different tree’s or plant’s to try from seed catalogs…my dad tried salsify root (vegan oysters) and my mama bought a linden tree that the bees loved. We pulled a lot of weeds, now I eat them or feed them to my goats.
 
Melissa: What are your 5 most beloved plants?
Jeannie: Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Milky oat tops (Avena sativa)..fresh in alcohol
Red Root (Ceanothus americanus)…aka Jersey Tea
Eastern Osha (Ligusticum canadense)…Bo’Hog root
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
The last three I’m trying desperately to get growing in my forest and the goldenseal seems to be the easiest.
Melissa: What is your favorite herb book ( or 3)?
Jeannie: Sastun moved me so much, the determination that Rosita Arvigo showed to apprentice under Don Elijio Panti and the life long commitment she made to pay it forward is an example I strive to live by daily, passing on herbalism to future healers. Healing Wise by Susun Weed will always be in my top 5, she grabbed my attention and helped me see plants as fellow friends and true allies. Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech is my early bible of learning proper extractions of constituents of the plants while maintaining a relationship.
 

Melissa: Tell us a little about Red Moon, the origins, your mission, your standards:

Jeannie: Jessica Godino and Corrina Wood both apprenticed for a year with Susun Weed, author of the Wise Woman Herbal Series. Following the ways of the Wise Woman Tradition, they birthed Red Moon Herbs, a company that chooses to make herbal extracts from prolific weeds, harvested fresh and processed on the same day in peak season. For instance, roots are only dug after frost when the tops of the plants have died back and the energy has returned to the earth. Flowering tops and leaves are harvested when they are in the most vibrant bud and bloom stage. We use organic alcohol, oil and vinegars, local beeswax and local honey while we encourage local farmers and Appalachian wildcrafters to join us in providing the most local plants with zero-50 miles travel time to get to the facility. We are so extremely blessed to live in western NC where the plant species exceed 2000 varieties. Now that Red Moon has been around 25 years and growing, I hold tight to the standard of small batch and fresh, local plants sourced by our own farmers and wildcrafters.
 
Melissa: How do you source your plants for making Red Moon medicines?
Jeannie: We do not limit ourselves to certified organic. We want a relationship with the person who watered, tended and harvested that plant. Besides, the USDA certified organic does not cover wild plants and a lot of what we harvest such as dandelion, burdock, plantain, chickweed, and yarrow are growing wild here in Appalachia and across North Carolina. The main thing we focus on is a pristine growing source, sustainably harvesting our herbs and the farmers and wildcrafters who share our commitment. For example, ginseng root has been in circulation for centuries and because the leaf did not hold up well in shipments and the roots could be stored for years, roots became the most desirable part and we have killed entire populations in Appalachia with the demand on this one plant. Although we focus on the “weedy plants”, we started offering ginseng leaf extract and dried leaf as a way for some wildcrafters and wild-simulated growers to hide their crop of ginseng from thieves…the leaves have medicinal qualities too. We also encourage a partial root harvest and planting back the neck node and part of the root as Joe Hollis of Mountain Gardens recommends…or using wild simulated roots, those who grow ginseng like it would grow in its natural habitat.
 
Melissa: What is the greatest struggle in running a local herb business?
Jeannie: Since we source fresh plants and we process in small batches, we tend to have a supply problem. Some plants have a small window of harvest time, like milky oats (2 weeks in late spring) or St. John’s Wort bud and flower (around Summer Solstice) so if we don’t harvest enough of the plant that year, we can’t just buy some dried material from Mountain Rose Herbs or Frontier or some east coast growers and make it with dried plant. These two especially have to be made with fresh plant material to extract the correct constituents. Preparing for a whole years sales is tough when some plants may lose status in popularity and other plants shift to be the high demand (2017 and 2018 elderberry madness rush the Co-op experiened too!)
 
Melissa: What is your greatest joy?
Jeannie: My family, including those who walked before me to lay the path of farming together…that led to my path of herbalism and healing. My fungi-loving partner Michael and teen kids Sofia and Sam are my heart. I am ecstatic when I overhear the kids talking about herbal medicine and the plants they can identify or how they can heal, even when they act like they’re not that interested in herbal medicine. Some of it sticks anyway! Behind family, it’s great herbal friends, my cats, and goats.
 
Melissa: What are your top selling products?
Jeannie: Motherwort and elderberry elixir hit it out of the park last year, but it looks like this year’s #1 is Green Wonder Salve. We’ve used it on ourselves, our cats, rabbits and goats and we have a few vets who purchase for their clients so I can see how the word is out for animals now too.
 
Melissa: What is your vision for your business in the future?
Jeannie: I want Red Moon herbs to be a destination, but not limited to one place. We currently just have a small workshop where we mail out or deliver to local businesses. The wild and open spaces are part of our garden for sustainable harvests…see Eaglesong and her use of the Commons….I’d love to orchestrate more walks together while spreading seeds, replanting root crowns, and allowing participants to take part of the harvest in gratitude. Community building is is a part of my vision for the future and I see a piece of land that has some transitional housing as well as permanent residents. Red Moon wants a safe place for those without homes to come and sit in the garden or help with the harvest. We are living in an affordable housing crisis in the Asheville area and even though tiny homes seem to be a bit of a fad, I encourage and hope to build small spaces where people can live simply and share their gardens together while canning, preserving, and learning life skills.
 
Melissa: How do you think that the Co-op and consumers can support you and other local businesses to create a strong local industry and a more resilient economy here in Asheville?
Jeannie: Really pay attention to those tags that say LOCAL and even if they cost a bit more, perhaps buy 1 local item everytime you visit the co-op. It makes a BIG difference. Most or all of those local businesses are making their handcrafted items in small batchess so your purchase, together with 10-20 other people per month can mean whether they stay in business or not. These small businesses hire local people and purchase raw materials from local businesses and farmers so your purchases for locally-made help ten-fold, not just one company. I love that the French Broad is also supporting MothrEarthFood.com, a local delivery service that brings local produce and goods to your door. I really appreciate these sorts of collaborations. Holiday markets or special events that feature locally-made goods, demonstrations from our Asheville makers are also really appreciated. As the co-op grows, I hope Red Moon can team up with FBFC and with other local makers to showcase as one big family.
 
Melissa: Any words of advice for new herbalists and foragers?
Jeannie: PROPER ID is #1! Make sure you know what plant you are harvesting and please chose a weedy plant over some of the less common plants. Organize a plant save if you see an area that is slotted for development for housing or areas where the DOT is widening roads and highways. United Plant Savers has an at-risk list…consider growing a few of these plants in your forest or even on a shady city lot. If you don’t have land, scatter seeds when you see them or divide roots when you do harvest and leave a little behind. Black cohosh, Ginseng, and Goldenseal are plants that do well with division. For herbalists just starting out and considering their own product line, consider apprenticing with a maker and take a few classes that identify plants in various seasons so you don’t just see it in a bag, dried, cut and sifted with no idea how to identify in the wild.

Assorted blogs and podcasts that we love

Sustainable Herbs Project- A wonderful body of articles and info tracing our beloved herbs back to their source. It has amazing information on what we can do as consumers, as herbalists and as teachers to protect these plants that we love and how to protect the farmers/wildcrafters who provide them.
 
United Plant Savers- A wonderful organization focused on the preservation of medicinal plants. Any herbalist will benefit from the list of at risk plants, in depth articles, and even how to create your own botanical sanctuary.
 
Northeast School of Botanical Medicine
 
 
Castanea blog
 
 
Co-op Stronger Together

Apothecary Class Sign Up

 Suggested donation of $10 but no one will be turned away due to lack of funds. You will take something home to add to your apothecary from each class.
 

View our event calendar for dates and times, and contact us with any questions at hbc@frenchbroadfood.coop

French Broad Food Cooperative Privacy Statement

French Broad Food Cooperative Privacy Statement

 

French Broad Food Co-op is committed to protecting your privacy and developing technology that gives you the most powerful and safe online experience. This Statement of Privacy applies to the French Broad Food Co-op Web site and governs data collection and usage. By using the French Broad Food Co-op website, you consent to the data practices described in this statement.

Collection of your Personal Information

French Broad Food Co-op collects personally identifiable information, such as your e-mail address, name, home or work address or telephone number. French Broad Food Co-op also collects anonymous demographic information, which is not unique to you, such as your ZIP code, age, gender, preferences, interests and favorites.

There is also information about your computer hardware and software that is automatically collected by French Broad Food Co-op. This information can include: your IP address, browser type, domain names, access times and referring Web site addresses. This information is used by French Broad Food Co-op for the operation of the service, to maintain quality of the service, and to provide general statistics regarding use of the French Broad Food Co-op Web site.

Please keep in mind that if you directly disclose personally identifiable information or personally sensitive data through French Broad Food Co-op public message boards, this information may be collected and used by others. Note: French Broad Food Co-op does not read any of your private online communications.

French Broad Food Co-op encourages you to review the privacy statements of Web sites you choose to link to from French Broad Food Co-op so that you can understand how those Web sites collect, use and share your information. French Broad Food Co-op is not responsible for the privacy statements or other content on Web sites outside of the French Broad Food Co-op.

Use of your Personal Information

French Broad Food Co-op collects and uses your personal information to operate the French Broad Food Co-op Web site and deliver the services you have requested. French Broad Food Co-op also uses your personally identifiable information to inform you of other products or services available from French Broad Food Co-op and its affiliates. French Broad Food Co-op may also contact you via surveys to conduct research about your opinion of current services or of potential new services that may be offered.

French Broad Food Co-op does not sell, rent or lease its customer lists to third parties. French Broad Food Co-op may, from time to time, contact you on behalf of external business partners about a particular offering that may be of interest to you. In those cases, your unique personally identifiable information (e-mail, name, address, telephone number) is not transferred to the third party. In addition, French Broad Food Co-op may share data with trusted partners to help us perform statistical analysis, send you email or postal mail, provide customer support, or arrange for deliveries. All such third parties are prohibited from using your personal information except to provide these services to French Broad Food Co-op, and they are required to maintain the confidentiality of your information.

French Broad Food Co-op does not use or disclose sensitive personal information, such as race, religion, or political affiliations, without your explicit consent.

French Broad Food Co-op keeps track of the Web sites and pages our customers visit within French Broad Food Co-op, in order to determine what French Broad Food Co-op services are the most popular. This data is used to deliver customized content and advertising within French Broad Food Co-op to customers whose behavior indicates that they are interested in a particular subject area.

French Broad Food Co-op Web sites will disclose your personal information, without notice, only if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to: (a) conform to the edicts of the law or comply with legal process served on French Broad Food Co-op or the site; (b) protect and defend the rights or property of French Broad Food Co-op; and, (c) act under exigent circumstances to protect the personal safety of users of French Broad Food Co-op, or the public.

Use of Cookies [Future]

 

The French Broad Food Co-op Web site use “cookies” to help you personalize your online experience. A cookie is a text file that is placed on your hard disk by a Web page server. Cookies cannot be used to run programs or deliver viruses to your computer. Cookies are uniquely assigned to you, and can only be read by a web server in the domain that issued the cookie to you.

One of the primary purposes of cookies is to provide a convenience feature to save you time. The purpose of a cookie is to tell the Web server that you have returned to a specific page. For example, if you personalize French Broad Food Co-op pages, or register with French Broad Food Co-op site or services, a cookie helps French Broad Food Co-op to recall your specific information on subsequent visits. This simplifies the process of recording your personal information, such as billing addresses, shipping addresses, and so on. When you return to the same French Broad Food Co-op Web site, the information you previously provided can be retrieved, so you can easily use the French Broad Food Co-op features that you customized.

You have the ability to accept or decline cookies. Most Web browsers automatically accept cookies, but you can usually modify your browser setting to decline cookies if you prefer. If you choose to decline cookies, you may not be able to fully experience the interactive features of the French Broad Food Co-op services or Web sites you visit.

Security of your Personal Information

French Broad Food Co-op secures your personal information from unauthorized access, use or disclosure. French Broad Food Co-op secures the personally identifiable information you provide on computer servers in a controlled, secure environment, protected from unauthorized access, use or disclosure. When personal information (such as a credit card number) is transmitted to other Web sites, it is protected through the use of encryption, such as the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol.

Changes to this Statement

French Broad Food Co-op will occasionally update this Statement of Privacy to reflect company and customer feedback. French Broad Food Co-op encourages you to periodically review this Statement to be informed of how French Broad Food Co-op is protecting your information.

Contact Information

French Broad Food Co-op welcomes your comments regarding this Statement of Privacy. If you believe that French Broad Food Co-op has not adhered to this Statement, please contact French Broad Food Co-op at info@frenchbroadfood.coop We will use commercially reasonable efforts to promptly determine and remedy the problem.

Asheville’s French Broad Co-Op expands, stays rooted

Focusing on natural foods was seen as alternative — even a little weird — around the time a small group of people who took eating right seriously hatched the idea that became French Broad Food Co-Op.

The food-buying club started on a few front porches in the mid-1970s, made its first expansion by moving into a potter’s shed and then found some elbow room

in a previously abandoned building on Carolina Lane.

With a prime downtown spot today — and a payroll nearing $1 million — the co-op is planning to triple its size, add a parking garage and go toe-to-toe with bigger stores also emphasizing natural foods. The groundbreaking for an expansion has a loose target of late 2016.

“We really need a full-service meat counter, a full-service deli, all that stuff,” said Bobby Sullivan, the store’s general manager. “It’s nice that we have all of these examples of stores in Asheville that we can look at and say ‘Hey, let’s do this.'”

The growth marks French Broad Food Co-Op’s largest expansion since it opened a storefront in downtown Asheville in 1996.

In those intervening years, natural food stores have flooded the area. Even so, the co-op holds to its original, nonprofit model, one intended to put community over profit.

That’s still what separates the store from others in a competitive market, Sullivan said.

Owned by dues-paying customers, French Broad Food Co-Op was launched in 1974. Founding member Ellie Warden still works in the store’s deli.

“Asheville was pretty depressed during those days,” she said. “It’s hard to believe when you go downtown. Lexington Avenue was moldy rummage sale stores and men-only bars and lots of boarded up buildings.”

The farmers market, then in what’s now a Lexington Avenue parking lot, offered Asheville some of its only access to fresh, seasonal food, Warden said.

“When we moved here, you couldn’t even find whole-wheat bread in the grocery stores,” she said. “There was nothing available, so we basically had to come up with our own way.”

Now that buying club has moved from people in living rooms trying to get permits to buy bulk to a full-fledged co-op on prime downtown real estate. “We have a real store now,” Warden said. “We’re basically bursting. That building is so small and crammed, but it’s nothing like a potters shed. It’s amazing how we’ve grown.”

Staying competitive

It used to be that a co-op was the only place to get natural foods, said Sullivan, who’s been with French Broad since 2011. “Really, when you were at a co-op, you met like-minded people because they were going out of their way to get a certain type of food.”

Sullivan worked in French Broad’s produce department for three months in 1997 before leaving to become the produce director for Earth Fare, a grocery store that now has more than 30 locations and continues to grow.

He returned to the co-op in 2011. Now Earth Fare, along with Whole Foods and other larger natural grocery stores form a genre Sullivan calls the “super-naturals.”

Even though natural foods have gone mainstream and the driving principals behind French Broad seem a touch starry-eyed, the super-naturals aren’t taking a big bite out of the co-op’s business.

“Co-ops, I think, hold kind of a unique place in the minds of some consumers because they are cooperatively owned,” said David Fowle, Eastern Corridor adviser for the National Cooperative Grocers Association.

“As opposed to profit being the primary motivation, it’s service, community, supporting local agriculture, being environmentally conscious, a lot of those things natural foods people are interested in,” he said.

The super-naturals play to that, to some extent, Fowle said. “But Whole Foods Market is required by law to maximize the profit of the shareholders. That’s why they’re there. Co-Ops are here to provide service.”

Core co-op shoppers tend to stay committed to stores that provide that service. “That’s a big difference that a lot of people value,” Fowle said. “There some co-ops that have done well — and some that haven’t.”

In 2014, French Broad is one that’s done well. It’s essentially debt-free. Its owners — a group of Asheville-dwelling stakeholders 1,600 people strong — own outright the increasingly crowded swath of downtown land where the store is located.

That property starts in the corner parking lot across the street from The Orange Peel and stretches to the edge of the co-op’s parking lot.

French Broad also has a perpetual lease at 76 Biltmore Ave., which it rents to Build It Naturally. The only interruption in the property is the Grey Rock Inn, a boardinghouse just south of the store.

A planned parking garage will open up to South Market Street behind the store, enabling easier access.

“So that people don’t even have to deal with Biltmore, because it’s just becoming prohibitive,” Sullivan said.

A crowded market

French Broad didn’t have much in the way of competition until John Swann’s Greenlife Grocery opened in 2004.

“Then (business) just started in this downward trajectory,” said Sullivan. “And that’s a testament to John Swann and the type of business that he opened up. It really was community-oriented, even though it had private ownership. The co-op just started to lose its relevancy.”

Now Swann owns Katuah Market in Biltmore Village and Whole Foods owns Greenlife Grocery, recently also opening a 35,000-square-foot store in East Asheville.

But Sullivan said Whole Foods’ seizing of more territory in the grocery business turf war has had a marginal effect on the co-op.

In the past few years, the store has stayed competitive by making a number of cosmetic changes, including re-figuring the internal layout. Business moves have included extensive internal training.

“When I got here, we didn’t have any money, and we worked with the resources we had inside the store to improve,” Sullivan said.

That included using the might of the National Cooperative Grocers Association, which French Broad joined in 2004.

Sullivan is active in the association, which helps the co-op cluster negotiate as one large buying entity, with the power of a 165-store chain.

Additionally, said Clare Schwartz, outreach coordinator for French Broad, the political climate has been ripe for a small store like the co-op to grow.

In 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement occupied media attention, and the co-op’s sales surged, experiencing two consecutive years of almost 20 percent growth.

“It went right along with the Main Street versus Wall Street movement, where people really started thinking about where they wanted to put their money,” Schwartz said.

“I think that whole movement reminded them that, oh yeah, the co-op’s been here for almost 40 years now — that’s my store,” she said.

The role of a co-op

The nonprofit business model sets French Broad apart in a world where natural is mainstream. The people who work and shop in the store are stakeholders after paying an initiation fee.

A lifetime membership costs $250, a sum that can be paid in installments. Owners get a rebate at the end of the year based on how much they shopped and how much the store made.

Additionally, owners can work in the co-op to get a feel for how it operates as well as deeper discounts on groceries.

The worker-owners, however, can’t do what the paid staff does.

“We have a clear distinction, because our staff is organized in the Teamsters union, so that means that worker-owners can’t do the tasks that are essential in running the store,” said Sullivan. “Those are protected by the union.”

French Broad has an 11-member board of directors, elected into an up to seven-year term by co-op members. One member was once a disgruntled customer.

When customers become stakeholders, there’s a built-in system of checks and balances, said Sullivan.

“There always going to be enough dynamic on that board that I’ll continue to get challenged as a general manager,” he said. “The customers are owners. Think about that.”

French Broad’s board has the financial health of the store in mind, but not to the exclusion of its other business goals, which include consumer education, community and supporting local.

“Everyone else is pretending that their relationships are authentic, but their relationships are based around the dollar,” he said. “Our relationships are based around community, and building community.”

HOW IT WORKS

• French Broad Food Co-Op is owned by 1,600 shareholders who buy into the company with a $250 lifetime membership, which can be paid in installments.

• Worker-owners work in the store for deeper discounts on groceries.

• The store has a staff of 34 full-time and part-time workers. All nonmanagement workers are members of a Teamsters union. They’re all paid at least a Living Wage as certified by Just Economics.

• Overall personnel payroll expense, including taxes, benefits and discounts, is almost $1 million year.

• The co-op holds a space upstairs for community events and education, fulfilling two of its operating principles, which include carrying healthy products, providing education, supporting community and staff, environment and financial health.

• Local producers get preferential treatment with prime shelf space, no UPC codes necessary, and are provided sales data and consulting to help with business development.

• The co-op operates one of the oldest tailgate markets in Asheville in Wednesdays.

FRENCH BROAD FOOD CO-OP TIMELINE

1974:French Broad Food Co-Op starts as a food-buying club, one which met on various Asheville residents’ porches. One of those porches belonged to Ellie Warden, who still works in the store’s deli.

1975:French Broad becomes incorporated as a cooperative association, operated exclusively on a mutual and nonprofit basis.

1996:The co-op moves into its fourth and current location at 90 Biltmore Ave. Previously, the co-op operated in a potter’s shed on the corner of Broadway and Hillside streets, then a warehouse space on Carolina Lane, then in the Chesterfield Mill, which burned down a year after the co-op moved out.

2004:Greenlife opens creating financial challenges, according to French Broad. The co-op that year joined the National Cooperative Grocers Association, a national network of co-ops, pulling together to increase buying power.

2011: French Broad experiences rapid sales growth for three years in a row, filling cash reserves for the first time since Greenlife opened.

2014: The co-op, basically debt-free, becomes Living Wage-certified by Just Economics. The store begins planning expansion in earnest with the goal to create wider product selection, more parking, community space and better access.

Source: https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2014/09/09/ashevilles-french-broad-co-op-expands-stays-rooted/15345481/