Q and A with Barb Andrews.
You see Natural Abundance Co-op every time you drive through Aberdeen’s downtown, a quaint corner grocery store with leafy produce on its sign. Maybe you’re a Co-op regular; maybe you’ve stopped in once or twice, or maybe you’ve only driven by. Whatever the case, we’re sure there’s more for all to know about Aberdeen’s original Health Food Co-op. So we met with Natural Abundance media coordinator, Dan Stusiak, to get the skinny on the Co-op on the corner, owned by the community:
Q: What do you want folks to know about Natural Abundance?
A: We want people to know we are here, and that our goal is to facilitate positivity. The customer sees staff take interest in
them and their health. The reason I like being here so much is because I have the opportunity to become better by helping other people get better. We have a new vision for 2014: “We’re all in this together.
Q: How did Natural Abundance come into existence?
A: In 1978 a group of people here in town wanted to bring in bulk and whole foods. They got together to crank up their buying power and as more people became interested in what they were doing, they formed a buyers club. Within one year, the buyers club said, “Okay, we need an actual location, products, employees,” and so forth. We’ve been in our current location for twenty years and in existence for thirty-five.
Q: Can you explain what a co-op is?
A: A co-op offers to serve the individual needs of the people involved, but in a way that promotes a group sense of ownership; “This is ours,” not even, “This is mine,” but, “This is ours.” The first Natural Abundance board members were the original members of the buyers club. Once bylaws and the election process was established, roles were assigned, such as president, vice president, treasurer, and who’s in charge of this or that. Then the buyers club invited Co-op members to participate on the board. Currently, a seat on the board is a three-year term. If you are elected to a position, it is for one year.
Q: What are your staple products?
A: Water, bulk food and grains, bulk trail mix, bulk tea, bulk spices, non-dairy alternatives, gluten free alternatives, free-range chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef and buffalo with no antibiotics, hormones, or inhumane living conditions. Bragg apple cider vinegar, supplements, heart supplements, fish oil, cod oil, vitamins, safe cleaning products, health and beauty products, and some pet products. Beauty products in bulk such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, castile soap (all purpose), and facial cleansers are also staples.
Q: What criteria do you look at when choosing your suppliers?
A: Product availability, minimum order requirements, and shipping fees. We really try and find local vendors if at all possible. Product support and training are important as well. Because we carry specialized products, we look at the values and integrity of the company. For instance: are they non-GMO, organic, fair trade, BPA free? We like to get products from small family-owned business if we can.
Q: Have you seen a customer’s health improve through the use of your products?
A: As much as people see us as a store like any other store, we change lives. Maybe not in huge ways all of the time, but I can’t count the number of times that people come up to me and say “Thank you for suggesting this, I feel a lot better now.” Especially with digestive health. People are eating the food we’ve been eating for years – burgers and pizza – and they wonder why they’re having such digestive problems. When people come in with colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s, or just general discomfort, we talk about getting on a pro-biotic and starting to drink aloe vera juice.
Q: How did you end up working for Natural Abundance?
A: The Natural Abundance Co-op saved my life. Before the Co-op, I had lost my way mentally and physically. Small things like organic lettuce and tea tree started helping me to feel more in balance. One of my social responsibilities is to be an example of how a person can transform their own health. If any experience that I’ve endured I can pass on to someone else, I benefit and so do they. I feel very strongly about Aberdeen since moving here in June of 2012. I’ve never believed in a community and a group of people so much. Almost all of those people were introduced to me, at least originally, through the Co-op. Aberdeen is just big enough, with the right kinds of people, to continue to want to promote health, art, and culture – yet small enough that we can all know each other and support each other’s efforts.