by Dan Gillotte, Chief Executive Grocer
Wheatsville’s birthday is one of my favorite times of the year. I feel so lucky to have a chance each year to reflect on this special organization that I’ve been privileged to be a part of for the past 20 years.
Our birthday spurs me to recognize and thank our founders and all the great people who came before us. Those board members, managers, owners, employees and shoppers who have been with us since the beginning - or at least for a couple decades! The vision of a thriving food co-op was on the mind of our forebears in 1976 and every day, we try to live up to being the ethical, positive, community-owned business that they were trying to create together.
These days, it seems more important than ever that co-ops exist to be a counter-balancing force to all of the selfish, negative, Wall Street driven activity that is so prevalent. Our ethical underpinnings and values allow us to embody our owners’ ideals of kindness, generosity and hospitality, caring for others, social responsibility and concern for community.
This year your co-op stood up for our common ideals of openness and a welcoming approach to all people. We worked hard to support Council Members Casar, Kitchen and Garza and Mayor Pro Tem Tovo’s efforts to require that all employees in the city of Austin had access to earned sick pay (as our staff have had for decades). We’ve also continued our commitment to pay all staff livable wages and benefits, with all staff earning $13.01 or more (after passing the 90 day intro period).
You’ll see more in this issue of the Breeze about our commitment to help reverse climate change. As an early signer to the Climate Collaborative, we have long been a leader in environmentally-friendly business practices, and this is just another way for us to show our commitment to a positive sustainable future on our planet.
Our leadership on food waste diversion was a big deal this year as many news outlets featured our work on getting food into the mouths of people who need it instead of landfills. We’re very proud of these efforts, I hope you are, too.
The future for Wheatsville is bright even as the grocery wars heat up with Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. We’re STILL LOCAL and always will be! We look forward to creating more positive impact with your support for the next 42 years and beyond!
This year, the Wheatsville Board seated our 2018 Directors at the January 16th meeting, and held our annual retreat on the second weekend in February. It was a great opportunity to develop as a team and do some foundational work as we embark on our journey together this year. It is exciting to lead the co-op as we turn 42 (which I am told is the secret of the universe) on March 16th, and as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dan Gillotte, our Chief Executive Grocer, who was first hired on February 18, 1998. We are deeply grateful to THAT Board of Directors for a wise decision that has paid dividends to our organization many times over!
We welcome four new directors along with two re-elected incumbents to the 2018 Board.
Jason Bourgeois describes himself as a student services practitioner, a performance conditioning specialist, an uncle, and a learning enthusiast. He loves that co-ops support unity, are inclusive, inspire creativity, and are some of the best hubs for community engagement.
Brandon Hines is a dimensional fund advisors manager specialized in information risk and security. He has been shopping at Wheatsville for 25 years because it is about so much more than getting groceries! Brandon believes that through support of our neighbors, Wheatsville will play a significant role in shaping Austin’s growing reputation as a creative center for community, culture, and cuisine.
Don Jackson is a dyed-in-the-wool cooperator who currently serves on the Austin Cooperative Business Association Board, and formerly served on the board of the Black Star Co-op. He is a Project Coordinator at the City of Austin focused on supporting small, local business districts, and he is inspired by Wheatsville’s efforts at local sourcing, commitment to affordable groceries and to livable wages.
Brian Mikulencak is an attorney whose law practice is focused on serving organizations that effect positive social change by using alternative business forms. He values the role that Wheatsville has played in the community throughout the course of Austin’s growth, and is passionate about supporting the food-choice owner-democracy of our co-op.
Lyz Nagan is the communications director for a Minneapolis-based firm, and she grew up shopping at local food co-ops. She knows from those experiences that co-ops build community. She believes in the value of small, personal actions, and she strives to be part of building a strong neighborhood by supporting local businesses and workers, and by doing one thing each day to make the city a better place.
MeriJayd O’Connor is a cranio-sacral therapist who sees Wheatsville as a fearless innovator, supporting sustainable food production, reducing waste, and creating strong cooperative alliances with other industries as we grow into the future. She dedicates herself to improving the health and well-being of others and is part of a developing organization that provides therapy to victims of torture and trauma.
At the January board meeting, three new officers were elected for 2018: Lisa Mitchell is Treasurer, Lyz Nagan is Secretary, and Rose Marie Klee is President. We are looking forward to supporting the work of this board!
We stand on the legacy of so many great directors and boards who came before us, and so I would like to say a special word of thanks to our outgoing directors: Julie Le, who was our star, leading more than her share of committees in her two years on the board; Andi Shively, who served as Treasurer and continues to provide leadership as President of the Austin Cooperative Business Association; and Kitten Holloway, who served as Secretary along with so many years of service on the Nominations Committee.
—Rose Marie Klee, Board President
Since 1900, International Women’s Day on March 8th, has been observed to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and serves as a reminder to continue working towards gender equality.
According to recent Harman Group data, while grocery shopping is becoming an increasingly shared task, women are almost 80% more likely to be the main shopper and meal preparer. Retail in general has been dominated by men in leadership and women as shoppers. But as you might suspect, co-ops have long been leaders in closing the gender gap. From Kitchen Supervisors, Bakers and Cooks, women are an important part of our grocery.
The first retail grocery cooperative opened in Rochdale England on December 21, 1844 and sold butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal, and candles as a way to get quality food to working class people. The 28 Pioneers were clear that membership should be open to everyone who could benefit from their services, irrespective of race, creed or political persuasion. They were committed to equal opportunities 150 years before the term became commonplace. Founded on the principle of ‘One Member, One Vote’, cooperatives welcomed working class people to the decision-making process - including women, long before women would gain the right to vote (1920 in the US, 1928 in the UK).
Today, co-ops, including Wheatsville, continue to lead the way. Our current Board of Directors is 45% women (about 20% in traditional business), our leadership team is 59% female and senior leadership is 44% female. In traditional retail businesses 42% of women hold mid-level manger jobs, 37% hold senior level manager jobs, and just 8% are CEO’s, according to Catalyst, Pyramid: Women in S&P 500 Retail Trade (August 22, 2017).
While women still have work to do locally, nationally, and globally – it’s important to recognize our co-op’s commitment to our shared Cooperative Values and Principles. Together we are actively creating the kinds of social change we want to see in the world. By contributing to businesses that support these ideals, we can all help lift each other up.
Many thanks to Siete Family Foods founder, Veronica Garza for answering our questions about their business.
Siete was formed when my family and I embarked on a health journey that included exercising together and adopting a low-inflammation, grain free diet, to help alleviate the autoimmune conditions I had been experiencing. As a Mexican-American, I grew up eating tortillas on a daily basis, and I have many wonderful memories of visiting my grandmother, always being welcomed with a batch of homemade flour tortillas. Eating gluten free and grain free meant that all tortillas were literally off the table for my family and me. While this may seem trivial, it wasn’t for us. In a way it felt like we were excluded from a part of our culture that we loved, being able to partake in delicious Mexican food. To fill this “tortilla void,” I experimented in the kitchen and developed a tortilla that we could eat. Over the next few years I modified the recipe numerous times, producing the first product we put to market, a grain free, gluten free, almond flour tortilla. I made them on weekends for many years, sharing them with my family and friends. In 2014 my family and I decided that we wanted to share our tortillas with more people outside of our circle of family and friends, so we found a buyer (Wheatsville!) for our products and started a business.
We make grain free Mexican-American food, utilizing nutrient dense, real food ingredients as much as possible. Our tortillas are currently made with ingredients such as almonds, coconut flour, cassava, chia seeds, coconut oil, and avocado oil. Our tortilla chips are made with cassava and coconut flour and cooked in avocado oil. All of our products have been created because they filled a void either in our own diets or for our core consumers. We sell products that we love to eat and hope that our customers feel the same way.
At Siete we try to make products that are as inclusive as possible. We’ve designed our products to allow people with a variety of diets, dietary restrictions, and backgrounds to gather around the table to enjoy Mexican-American foods. Currently, all of our products are gluten free, grain free, vegan-friendly, paleo-friendly and verified by the non-GMO Project.
With all of our products, taste and quality are paramount. We care about what we put in our bodies and, because of that, we’ve gone to great lengths to scrutinize and carefully select every ingredient that goes into our products. I personally oversee all of our product development and spend the majority of my time testing the perfect combination of ingredients and finding the best partners to source ingredients from, all to offer our customers products we can be extremely proud of.
After years of making an almond flour tortilla for friends and family out of my kitchen in Laredo, Texas, we decided to turn a recipe into a business. In 2014, I made a batch of tortillas, put them in a ziplock bag, and drive from Laredo to Austin to approach the buyer at Wheatsville Food Co-op. The grocery buyer loved them and asked how soon they could start selling them. We had no business, no brand name, and no idea how to start a food business. My mother, brother (Miguel), and I joined forces and within a couple of months had our first product on the shelves. We started off by renting space at a commercial kitchen in Austin, driving up from Laredo every weekend to make tortillas by hand and then deliver them to Wheatsville. Since then the rest of my family members have come onboard to help move Siete along on its mission to becoming a healthy Mexican American food brand.
Before starting Siete Family Foods we had zero experience in the food industry. Wheatsville was instrumental in helping us get our start. Knowing we were just getting started as a business, the buyer provided guidance on many of the steps we had to take to get our products on the shelf. We love the warm, welcoming feel we get when walking into Wheatsville as customers and now as vendors/partners that have the privilege of selling our products to their customers.
Many thanks to Jessica Holten for answering our questions!
Jacques Holten and his daughter Jessica started Sjaak's Organic Chocolates in 2003, after discussing their passion for organic foods, they both felt like it was the right direction to go. They wanted to create a delicious chocolate that was also organic, thus being healthier for the consumer, farm workers and the earth.
Jacques has been creating culinary confections since the age of 12, when he began trade school in his native country of Holland. We joke that he has been making chocolate forever, which is somewhat true. He has been in the confectionery and culinary industry most of his life; either working for himself in various businesses or for chocolate houses throughout Europe.
The Sjaak’s logo is rooted deep in family history. Jacques, the owner and creator of Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates, was born in the Netherlands and grew up next door to the family grain mill. The original wind mill that is represented in the Sjaak’s logo was named Antonius Mollen, a family name to this day. This mill was destroyed in World War II, but it was replaced by a mechanical mill. The tulip in the forefront is iconic of Holland, the largest producers of tulips in the world.
Most importantly, what sets Sjaak's Organic Chocolates aside is taste. We pride ourselves on creating incredibly delicious chocolates. Sjaak's is also completely organic, vegan, kosher and is a small family owned and operated business.
All of Sjaak's ingredients are organic, therefore non-GMO. We use Fair trade cocoa and sugar. Sjaak's Organic Chocolates aims to create the highest quality gourmet organic chocolates possible while simultaneously supporting a positive work environment, fair trade practices and encouraging sustainable agriculture through the use of organic, non-GMO ingredients. It is also the goal of Sjaak's Organic Chocolates to build a socially responsible, profitable business that can be carried on for generations to come.
All of Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates are vegan products, including chocolate bars, gift boxes and Holiday treats. This means they contain no animal ingredients, such as milk, butter, eggs, and gelatin. We have created a vegan 'Melk' chocolate that that is completely dairy free and is delicious! Even the sugar that we use is non bone char. Our products are certified Kosher by Earth Kosher.
Sustainable Food Center is proud to be the beneficiary of Wheatsville’s monthly giving for January. For those unfamiliar with our work, our mission is to cultivate a healthy community by strengthening the local food system and improving access to nutritious, affordable food. Beyond a shared commitment to a just and sustainable food system, it’s the people behind our organizations that make the local food movement in Austin special. In fact, many on staff at SFC are Wheatsville members. Hear from them about why they are proud to be a part of the co-op!
I joined the co-op about two years ago when I realized that I was hanging out at Wheatsville probably four or five times a week! I was sucked in by the great local produce, the friendly staff and the sense of community. So happy I found them and that they are my grocery store of choice J.
—Sara Law, Food Access Manager
I love seeing products sourced from local farmers and ranchers who I know!
— Joy Casnovsky, Deputy Director
I’ve been a Wheatsville member for so many years I’ve lost count. In addition to being a nearly daily stop on my way home from work, Wheatsville was instrumental in helping me start NadaMoo!, the coconut milk ice cream I created in 2004. Wheatsville was one of my first retailers and an ingredient supplier in my start up years. Simply put, they are the real deal when it comes to supporting the community and local food businesses. I love you, Wheatsville!
—Amy Rodman, Business Development Manager
I love being able to depend on finding locally-sourced and organic produce at Wheatsville. It’s great to be able to support an Austin coop and local farmers at the same time!
—Sari Albornoz, Grow Local Program Director
Becoming a member of the co-op was one of the first things I did when I moved to Austin a little over a year ago. As a big supporter of local food, I love seeing the amount of variety from local farms and small producers at Wheatsville.
—Lucinda Ugarte, Grow Local Education Coordinator
I am proud to be a member of Wheatsville Co-op because Wheatsville champions health, well-being and community for a stronger Austin. Thank you, Wheatsville!
— Barrie Cullinan, Finance Coordinator
There is a unique joy that is felt in spaces that are truly community-centered. Wheatsville was one of the first places I ever visited in Austin and I could feel that warmth immediately. Shopping here is a perfect complement to the bounty I can find at SFC Farmers’ Markets. Thank you!!!
—Simone Benz, Food Access Projects Manager
Big Swig balances thirst-quenching bubbles and fresh flavor for a crushable beverage enjoyed any time of day. The can is bold but the bubbles are refreshing, not overwhelming. It’s perfect for hydrating during a weekend at Zilker Park, a weekday lunch, a night out, and everything in between. Anywhere around Austin, Big Swig sparkling water brings a bubbly zip and burst of flavor, delivering Texas-Sized refreshment. Crack one open!
Big Swig Sparkling Water is available in 12-packs of 12oz can.
Original Sparkling Water — A timeless classic. Like a good pair of blue jeans, our Original Sparkling Water always feels right and goes with just about anything.
Key Lime — Sparkling water with a refreshing zip to get you up and running. Light, bubbly, and delicious without any calories, sugar, or worries.
Ruby Red Grapefruit — A sparkling citrus explosion, with a hint of sweetness. Made with no sweeteners, no calories, and no bull—but plenty of love and care.