While I was out of town during the last weekend in August for the Con, the Tacoma Food Co-op opened its doors to the public. This business has been in the works for five years and now it finally stands in its brick and mortar form. Though I wasn’t physically in Tacoma on Aug. 26, I still beamed with a little more pride that day. Our co-op’s open!
I stopped by last week to check out the store, meet General Manager Henri Parren and ask him a few questions about the co-op and what kind of offerings local vegans could look forward to.
Before I began to ask my questions, Parren told me a little about his twin sister who still lives in his home country, Holland.
“She’s vegan. Well, nearly vegan,” Parren laughs. “She’s a strict vegetarian. Like her, I have a strong connection to animals.”
If you haven’t met him yet, Parren has a warm and welcoming way about him, and the fact that he shared this story with me was genuinely endearing. It set the tone for the rest of the interview, and for the way I viewed the spirit of the co-op as I walked through the aisles.
Though not vegan himself, Parren has worked for many notable grocery companies in Washington state the past and thus is very familiar with the brands that vegetarians love. In the freezer section, all kinds of vegan meals – from Amy’s pizzas, to burgers to breakfast items, Sunshine and many other veggie burgers and great organic veggies and fruits – all line the shelves. Bulk bins are teeming with grains, (including Bob’s Red Mill), bottles of nooch and Bragg’s are available, chia seeds are in the spice bulk section and soy yogurt and many various milk alternatives are available, too. Almost every product made by Seattle vegan grain meat company Field Roast is available, which was an intentional move on the general manager’s part.
“I’ve worked with the owner of Field Roast, (David Lee) before, and I know all about it. I knew I wanted to have his products here,” Parren stated. Check out my photos of a few other vegan items and products I scouted on my visit:
Not just food! The co-op’s stocked with natural personal care, cleaning, pet and other health-related products. The shelves are still filling up, but I think the options available are an excellent start.
Two of Tacoma’s premier coffee roasters are represented and available in the co-op, Valhalla and Bluebeard. Coffee’s available by the pound in whole beans or you can grind it in store. Many Mad Hat Tea varieties are also available.
Parren seemed to have a solid basis of essential vegan items in mind, but I wondered if they’d gotten many requests for items before opening.
“Yes, we did get many on Facebook,” Parred affirmed. “We definitely had requests for organic produce and most vegan requests focused also on fresh and local, such as coffee, baked goods and bulk items.”
Though the co-op doesn’t have every item in that a vegan (or anyone else) could think of, Parren and the co-op welcome requests. During the interview, he showed me a stack of items that had just come in as a result of individuals asking for them. So if you can’t find an item you’re looking for, let them know. Parren and co. want to stock the shelves with items they know the community wants. More bulk items and a deli are two things that have been requested the most and that are in the works.
When asked how the reception had been to the co-op thus far after its “soft” opening, Parren didn’t hesitate to say that it’s been all positive.
“It seems that everyone is all about the organic veggies!” Parren exclaimed, with a smile. “With vegans, they are real, conscientious, fun and interesting people. They’ve seen things, heard things and are fun to socialize with. And they definitely aren’t afraid to speak their mind and voice their concerns!” You’ve got that right, Henri. And I for one appreciate shopping at a grocery store where the general manager actually knows what “vegan” means, and respects the lifestyle.
Whether you’ve stopped by the co-op multiple times since it opened (guilty) or you still haven’t made it over yet, all are invited to the Co-op’s official grand opening celebration, taking place this Saturday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. There will be a toast and opening remarks at that time, and it’ll be a great opportunity to meet Parren, the TFC board, fellow member-owners and even join the co-op if you were still holding out. If you haven’t fully realized all the reasons why you should be a member by now, maybe going to the storefront and feeling the sense of community and ownership that emanates throughout will help you understand exactly what we’re all so jazzed about.
Grand opening info:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 10, (09/10/11!)
Time: 2 p.m.-?
Location: 3002 6th Ave.
Tacoma Food Co-op general info:
Address: 3002 6th Ave.
Email: email@example.com (this is the co-op’s preferred method of contact)
Phone: (253) 627-3344
Regular hours: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.