The FireStarter ~ Summer 2017

Volume 33, Issue 2

click to enlarge 40 Year Birthday Party Photo Montage

A Conversation On the Early Days of the Co-op

Forty years ago, what is now known as the Tonasket Natural Foods Co-op was a grassroots example of tireless visionaries working together to build a dream. Many people were involved with the early days of the Co-op; some have moved away, coming back from time to time. Other members have lived in the area for all these years, enduring along with the Co-op! Below is a conversation about some of the humble beginnings of our little store.

Moonstone Mazzetti: I was the first day-manager long ago and again in recent years. I sat on the board, dreamt up events, made signs. It was an honor to be part of such a long sustaining community effort. It meant a great deal to me when I lived near Tonasket, and I have great memories of the community gathering point that it was!

Sandy Vaughn: I remember those early days. We all took turns, working and dreaming.

Moonstone: I was at the store on the other side of the bridge, called Coniunctio’s, when we bought it from Birch Berman (called No Name back then). I was also working the store when we set up in Si's (Michael Simon’s) fruit stand on the old hwy. I remember one general meeting when somebody was going on and on about how dirty the help was. Later, I realized he was talking about me! I had one spotless dress, which I never wore at home, but saved for the store. Sorry, I did my best....

Sandy: Moonstone, don't you dare say you're sorry--your best was the example most of us all strove to be worthy of. I don't remember the 'help' incident, but sure remember Coniunctio’s store across the river. And even before, when we got our foods out of Treebeard’s kitchen. I seem to remember he had a pantry set up with dry goods and we Siwash folks shopped there. Then, yes, after Coniunctio’s, out on Highway 7, a tiny little storefront. I think the Co-op is one of the longest running co-ops in the country.

Will Ross: I’m echoing what Sandy said about Moonstone as an example we strove to be worthy of. I was on the Co-op Board of Directors when we set up for the summer in Billy Allstot's fruit stand. I volunteered as the Co-op buyer, placing orders every week with the two natural food wholesalers in Seattle, where the Co-op had accumulated a large debt associated with the business collapse of the Coniunctio storefront earlier in the year. We negotiated with the two wholesalers (Community Produce and CC Grains) to make a payment every month and they allowed us to continue to place orders every week. John Marcille was the bookkeeper who paid down our debt to the wholesalers, and made payments on our business purchase to No Name's parents in Boston.

That summer Patrick, whose last name I forget, opened and closed the fruit stand every day and kept the cash box. When autumn weather turned cold we moved all the beans and grains and store fixtures into the living room of the house that John Marcille, Treecloud, and I rented in Ellisforde on Landfill Road while the store went dormant for a couple of months. Treecloud negotiated a lease for a small storefront on Hwy 97 in Ellisforde, and Danny Vaughn built us a nice checkout counter. We were a resourceful community unwilling to let our natural food coop fail. And it didn't!

Iris Kavanagh: And I was just a wee brat, tagging along to all of these manifestations of Co-ops. I remember people buying dry goods from us on Siwash, meetings in Ellisford, us getting the current building from Teed (of Teed’s Candy Shop). I distinctly remember helping to stain the beautiful wood shelves when we first opened in Tonasket and my dad (Treebeard) was managing (maybe co-managing with Danny Vaughn?) There's still a mark on that shelf, where my 7-year-old self put too much stain. When I haven't been home (to the Okanogan) in a while, I always look for that stain when I stop into the Co-op--it helps me ground.

I also remember countless board meetings at all the locations and me being so bored so I thought that's what a board meeting was about.

When I was 16, I worked at the Co-op as my first job. Julie Greenwood was my boss and gave me credit for occupational learning. During that time in my life, I didn't have a home so, on the down low, I was given a key and allowed to sleep in the basement whenever I needed to. I often stayed with Moonstone and Buffalo as well, but I will never forget those nights, unrolling my sleeping bag in the basement and thinking of all of the things that had taken place in that room.

When I got my very own membership card I was so proud, I could only pay the $5 installment membership at the time, and I remember the day when I could pay the remaining $25 that allowed me to claim lifetime membership for the amazingly low price of $35!

The Co-op will always hold a special place in my heart, for all of the above, for being the place that had delicious sandwiches, Nature's Nectar ice cream bars, chocolate covered halvah bars; for being the place where you were almost always guaranteed to see someone you hadn't seen in a bit when you came into town; for being the message center for so many people; and for being the first stop I'd make whenever I'd arrive home for a visit.

Will: Yes, your dad was co-managing the Co-op when it opened on 4th street. At that time I was one of the volunteer janitors, dusting, cleaning, sweeping, and vacuuming the store twice a week. Your dad used to leave his shoes under the desk in the manager's office, and since they were always in the way when I was sweeping and vacuuming, and since the janitor chore was always after hours when no one was in the store, I (helpfully) put Treebeard's shoes inside a random desk drawer each time I cleaned. Sometimes I put them both in the same drawer, and sometimes I didn't. Ha ha ha, now the truth comes out!

Moonstone: Yes, Will, thanks for all that left brainwork! What I remember from the Ellisford days was when Tree Cloud was keeping the fruit stand Co-op open; he confessed to being so penniless he stole some food. Big confession... no one cared as long as we all got fed....

Rose Corso: I was on the first Co-op board and worked in Ellisforde with Peggy Tofte managing. No pay, but eventually we were reimbursed gas money. When we moved to Tonasket, it was total excitement. I organized the herbs in the store and worked there until just before my daughter Riva's birth, June 1981. I can't believe so much was accomplished in such a short time!

Annika Forrester: I loved the Co-op, as one who barely spent 6 months in the Okanogan. It was the center of the universe, where everyone who was anyone could be connected. I remember amazing tempeh salad sandwiches and frozen mint chocolate rice dream drinks in summer. And the smell and dust and squeak of the bulk bins.

Carrie Tompakov (Spring Rain): I’m so happy to know that the Co-op is still going strong! I used to be the Assistant Manager for many years, and also served on the Board of Directors. There are so many awesome memories I have of this place. It's great to see how it has evolved over the years. The last time I was there visiting family my lifetime membership was even honored. Thank you!

Tonasket Co-op Member Appreciation Day is the 3rd Tuesday of each month. Members may bulk-order from the UNFI Catalog at 15% above wholesale.

Happy Birthday To Our Sister Co-op

The Ferry County Co-op in Republic is also turning 40 this year!

New Staff at the Co-op

This summer has brought several staffing changes to the Co-op. We have two new employees working for us: Jessica Hendrix and Ashley Nelson.

Jessica started at the store late last spring, coming to the Okanogan from Sacramento California. She has worked in the natural food industry for the past 12 years and recently ran a small certified organic farm. She has two children--four year-old daughter Bailey, and two-year old son Therock. Her parents moved here with her to help build her house and watch her children while she works.

Ashley comes from our neighboring town of Oroville. She has had extensive food service experience, having managed the Oroville Subway store and Papa Murphy’s. She also has had deli experience, which makes her a great fit with our Co-op staff team. When asked what she likes best about her job, Ashley didn’t hesitate to say, “The awesome customers! Everybody’s so friendly – they want to know my name and everything about me!”

Both women are being trained in the many aspects of the store’s operations; aside from cashiering, they can be seen stocking, packaging, and soon Ashley will be training in the deli as a fill-in.

Co-op Shoppers!

Do you need a paper sack to get your groceries home? If so, please contribute to the "Bag" jar on the counter to help pay for paper bags. A suggested donation is 5-10 cents. And please consider bringing reusable bags. Thank you!

Don’t forget to check out the fresh summer styles of Lei Lotus clothing. Also, the new shipment of Fair Trade baskets and hats from African Market Baskets – “Weaving Hope, Healthcare and Education” for more information on their mission visit their website at: African Market Baskets .com

Remember to look for MEMBER SALES throughout the Co-op. White shelf tags display regular non-member and specially discounted price for current Members. Some are one-time deals, some are monthly sales, and others are introductory promotions. (These specials also apply to visiting members from other Co-ops – just show us your membership cards!)

Co-op Staff Picks: Some of Our Favorite Products
(try them, you’ll be glad you did!)

Co-op Board of Directors meets on the THIRD MONDAY of each month, at 6:00 pm . in the North Valley Hospital Board Room in Tonasket, at 126 S Whitcomb, in the Administration Building. (subject to change)


This edition of the Co-op News was edited by River Jones,
and published as a service to the members of the Tonasket Natural Foods Co-op.

Letters and articles are welcome from members.
Please email your submission for consideration to us at .

Newsletter editor and store management will review all submitted articles to determine suitability for publication.
Co-op Board of Directors:
Sunny Lanigan, Chair
Ron Jones-Edwards, Secretary
Szarka Carter, Treasurer
Aaron Kester
Tom Fisher
Your name here?

General Manager: Alice Simon
Assistant Manager: Julie Greenwood