Sundays will never be the same. At least here at the Upper Valley Food Coop. For the last four years I have been the Manager on Duty (MOD) that day and Vince Kelly manned the Lane 1 register; up until he became bed ridden with a painful back injury a few short months ago.
As you know by now, Vince succumbed to an unrelated malady while on leave from the store, never to return to a job and co-workers and customers he truly embraced as his surrogate family. Since his untimely passing I have witnessed an outpouring of love, genuine sentiment and a great sense of loss over who was essentially an iconic figure within the footprint of our big red building on North Main in White River Junction.
I’ve listened as many of the staff at the UVFC have talked about still expecting to see Vince walking in the back door ready to begin his shift or coming around the corner commenting on the latest sporting event he had watched the night before. Vince had a loveable, if not gruff exterior, but as we now are finding out, the curmudgeon in him may have been physical pain, subliminally working its evil on a guy who always would be ready to engage anyone in thoughtful and knowledgeable conversation-especially those that involved music and sports. He was quick as a hiccup when it came to pulling coupons from the flyer to help any customer with defraying their bill.
I am not speaking for the rest of the staff or management when I say, I think Vince is still hanging out with us. Let me explain.
Since I have been the Sunday MOD I keep a close watch on the total sales for that day. Sunday, we have abbreviated hours and traditionally it’s a day most folks spend with their families and leave shopping for the other six days. In other words, it slow goings for the most part.
No need to give actual numbers, so suffice it to say, the two top sales days we have had the last four years (and I have to add here those two days were significantly higher than the norm) were while Vince was manning his register.
The last year Vince worked those Sundays I would always ask him before we opened the door if he thought we would come close to a new record and get up into a Sunday stratosphere for sales if you will. He would shrug his shoulders, mumble a “we’ll see,” a “never know,” or maybe something to the effect of “probably not, it’s too nice out.”
Last month, on Sunday, August 31st, Vince’s first Sunday away, having passed earlier the past week, the store came within a few hundred dollars of breaking my own four year record. For sure a solid third place ranking.
As a footnote, I want to mention and of no less importance, my two cashiers that day worked straight out, gave excellent customer service and effortlessly handled the busy stretches. Funny thing, one of the cashiers prefer to use Lane 3 as it is her favorite. I saw no problem with that and since we only use two of the three cash drawers on Sunday that left Vince’s old #1 open. A customer placed a vase of flowers and taped a placard remembering Vince on his register.
Many folks will have Vince stories and that is a tribute to him. This was mine.by Robert Lucas
Read this article about Vince in the Valley News.
Check out these great companies who strive to give us organic and gmo-free products.
Garden of Eatin’ offers a variety of Non-GMO Project verified corn tortilla chips, from Sesame Blue Corn Chips to Pumpkin Chips. With corn as one of the top GMO crops, it’s great to have tasty organic chips. Garden of Eatin’ is also a proud supporter of the Just Label It Campaign that advocates labeling GMO foods.
Andalou was the first beauty brand to achieve 100% Non-GMO Project verification. Their Fruit Stem Cell Science uses ‘universal cells’ to renew, repair and regenerate healthy skin. Choose them for all your beauty needs, including lotion, shampoo and conditioner, and more!
Frontier Cooperative is a fantastic cooperative! They supply many of our bulk spices, herbs, and teas. They provide common varieties of these bulk items, but also lesser known varieties such as the two alternative cinnamons. They have numerous organic products and are proud supporters of organic farming.
MegaFood Supplements prides itself on its Non-GMO ingredients and many of its products are Non-GMO Project verified. They offer balanced, comprehensive supplements as well as focused supplements for supporting particular health concerns.
As recent transplants to the Upper Valley, our family is always looking for places we and our children can thrive and connect. The Upper Valley Food Co-op has provided that opportunity for us. Not only is there an abundance of fresh, ethical produce we can feed our family with, but there is a small area where children can color, play, eat, and interact with other children who happen to be there. Perfect! I love that my children are making this community connection and associating it with healthful and ethical food.
We first visited White River Junction back in 2006 when we discovered the most rad clothing store on Main Street. When we returned last year, we were so pleased to see it had survived and was thriving. Revolution is another example of the alchemy that happens when something good comes to WRJ. A clothing boutique that hosts music events, fashion shows, houses photography exhibitions, offers coffees and, perfect again, has a play area for children!
Co-owner and founder Kim Souza was enthusiastic to talk about the Co-op and community. “Here at Revolution, we have a solid appreciation for aesthetic and quality of life in our everyday pursuits. We don’t go shopping just to buy things, nor do we eat food simply to fill a void. We prefer a more dynamic approach to activities like these that bring us closer to our community and inspire a cooperative attitude.
“Clearly, the Upper Valley Food Co-op has a similar standard of practice which engages the community with a depth of interdependence beyond what a commercial supermarket can offer. If White River Junction were personified as a village, the Upper Valley Food Coop would represent integrity and resourcefulness within that community. The coop plays a major role in White River’s identity which supports the arts and a sustainable, meaningful lifestyle. Essentially, it’s the heart and soul of downtown WRJ, and it helps to nourish the greater Upper Valley region with healthful products and basic goodness!”
To accompany this article, Kim sent an image of a woman wearing a medieval costume shopping in the produce department. This was from a shoot by Revolution for Made Marion, a label created by designer Marion Taylor Settle, who some of you may also know as one founder of the sew-op!
Matt Bucy, property developer and cinematographer, will develop the American Legion Hall building into 22 apartments. The Co-op has been going for 38 years, and I wanted to hear his insight into the key for this success. One of the attractions to the Co-op for Matt stemmed from an earlier reincarnation of the building the Co-op now owns. That kids’ play area? The offices of New England Digital employees were there, including Matt’s, working on creating the first commonly-used digital synthesizers!
“Walkability and accessibility are key,” he said. “Not all residents want to, or can, drive to farmer’s markets or farms to get organic local produce,” he said. The Co-op is a hub for shopping, but also for numerous events that bring community together intentionally. Thinking about the future of this community stemming from the Co-op, I asked how growth and development can thrive. His response: “own who you are and stay open to possibilities.”
The Upper Valley Food Co-op is more than a space that our children can enjoy, or where we can shop. It’s a space where, in a past life, Matt Bucy built digital synthesizers that were used on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. It’s a space with a members’ library and a sewing room. It’s a space that hosts a non-profit solely dedicated to community. It’s the roots communities are grown from.
Don’t miss a stellar line up of panelist who will discuss Food Security from their unique perspectives.
Hear from Sylvia Davatz, our local seedsaver and creator of Solstice Seeds, a small seed company in Hartland, VT where all the seeds are grown.
It’s sure to be a great time! We have Celtic duo, Blackbird playing for us, starting at 5:30.
Bring a dish to share. The Co-op will provide soup, bread and salad, as well as ice cream from our friends at Strafford Creamery. Elect your board members, hear from our GM
The Upper Valley Food Co-op has an interesting history with roots all over the Upper Valley.
Activists in the early ’70’s were unable to get bulk foods, so they started a small store on West Lebanon’s Main Street that they called ‘The Do-it Store’, with its motto over the door: “ Don’t Just Talk about it, Do It!” Customers figured out their own bill and put their money in a can.
Later, the store became known as the Upper Valley Food Co-op, acting as a buyers’ club housed in a couple of quanset huts near the Ompompanoosuc River in Thetford. Each month, after the bulk food had been distributed, they cleared the center of the main building and had a dance.
Eventually it became a grocery store, located on Mechanic Street in Lebanon; then in 1983, it moved to the Coolidge Block in downtown White River Junction.
A wonderful video of the our co-op’s beginnings, filmed by South Strafford co-op member Phyl Harmon, is available on DVD in the co-op’s library.
I began working at the co-op in its White River Junction location in 1987. My pay was $4.75/hour. There were two staff members: Chip Blough and myself. There were no departments, and we shared all the tasks. On a good day, we took in $1,000. The store had wall-to-wall carpeting (presumably in place when they moved in), and a superworker came in each morning and vacuumed it.
Most of our products came from a distributor co-op of food co-ops called Northeast Cooperatives, and the trucks had to park on Main Street across from the store (there was no rear access). We would carry the boxes across the street, take them in the front door and down an aisle to the back of the store, and pile them in a little dark back hall to be opened and the contents stocked.
Even back then, before the local foods movement, our co-op bought as much from local producers and farmers as we could. We got tomatoes (and lettuce!) from Longwind Farm before they began to concentrate on just tomatoes, and I remember Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm bringing his yogurt to us in person!
It was a charming little store, and we loved it. We had a big window in front, where we put a little table and chairs, so that two people at a time (or maybe 3) could eat and watch people go by in the street.
But by 1993, our sales were such that we had to move to a bigger building, and with trepidation we took over our present location. We knew our customers loved our smallness and humanness and were afraid we would lose that in this big store!
Clearly, we have been able to preserve what our customers like!