Ryan Welch, a produce clerk, restocks grapes at the Sno-Isle Food Co-op in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ryan Welch, a produce clerk, restocks grapes at the Sno-Isle Food Co-op in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett’s Sno-Isle Food Co-op approaches its 25th anniversary

The enterprise hopes to add more square footage and more classroom space to the store on Grand Avenue.

EVERETT — Tucked into the corner of Grand Avenue and California Street, the Sno-Isle Food Co-op is the kind of place people discover because they spotted it from the sidewalk or a friend recommended it.

That’s how Everett resident Leah Scates found the grocery store.

The produce aisle — red, green, leafy and plum purple — immediately caught her eye.

“I found it on a walk, and I loved it,” said Scates, who started as a cashier at Sno-Isle five years ago and is now the store’s general manager.

This spring, Sno-Isle will celebrate 25 years in business.

You may have heard that Sno-Isle carries organic fresh and packaged foods, spices, bulk foods, wine and beer, and locally made gifts. But did you know that it donates vegetable trimmings and other produce waste to local farmers? They feed it to their livestock.

An in-store deli offers sandwiches, burritos, smoothies and comfort food such as mac and cheese. There is classroom space for yoga, wine-tasting and other events, although some of those activities have been paused due to COVID-19, Scates said.

A selection of tomatoes and garlic at the Sno-Isle Food Co-op in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A selection of tomatoes and garlic at the Sno-Isle Food Co-op in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Unlike some other businesses, there’s no CEO or president at the helm. Instead, a nine-member board of trustees that’s elected annually is in charge. They ensure that the store is financially stable. Board members — and one seat is reserved for a store employee — run for re-election every year. Co-op members can cast their vote online or duck into a small polling place at the store.

A co-op membership costs $100 but lasts a lifetime. Can’t pay the fee all at once? “You can pay for it all at one time or in as little as $5 increments,” Scates said.

Anyone can shop there — you don’t need a membership — but members, who are considered owners, can take advantage of special sales and discounts on food, wine and other items. Members may also receive a dividend at the the end of the year, Scates said.

Today the co-op has 8,000 member-owners, Scates said.

Nalini Karp lives in Kirkland, but she used to live in Everett. Now whenever Karp is in town, she makes it a point to visit 2804 Grand Ave. “It’s must-come store,” said Karp, who was stocking up on gluten-free oatmeal that she says she can’t find elsewhere.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic ended rain checks and special orders due to supply chain woes, along with live, in-store music, the co-op isn’t standing still.

In the next year or two, the co-op hopes to enlarge the footprint within the building it occupies and add more square footage, Scates said.

Ian Daw, a 14-year employee and retail manger, stocks the frozen food section at the Sno-Isle Food Co-op in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ian Daw, a 14-year employee and retail manger, stocks the frozen food section at the Sno-Isle Food Co-op in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

(The building that the co-op occupies has its own unique history. During World War II, the Boeing Co. operated an aircraft component assembly plant there.)

“We’ve had a cost estimation done on the expansion project,” Scates said. “We’re really hoping that can be an option for us.”

The additional space would allow Sno-Isle to double its produce section. About a quarter of the store’s fruits and veggies are Washington grown, and more room could bump that up even further.

“We would love to incorporate meat in a fresh meat and seafood counter,” Scates said.

The co-op is a registered B Corporation, a voluntary certification that measures a company’s overall social and environmental performance.

B-Corps are “legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment,” according to BCorporation.net, which certifies applicants.

As part of the certification process, the co-op set a goal a few years ago to drastically reduce the amount of waste the store generates.

“Last fiscal year, 93% of our waste was diverted from the landfill,” Scates said.

“We prioritize sustainability, fair treatment of employees and giving back to the community,” Scates said.

Posters alert customers to sales at the Sno-Isle Food Co-op in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Posters alert customers to sales at the Sno-Isle Food Co-op in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sno-Isle recently raised its starting wage to $15 an hour.

Last year, too, customers rounded up the sales price of their orders under the store’s register roundup program some $9,000. The co-op’s matching funds brought the total to more than $15,000, which was distributed to a dozen nonprofits, including ChildStrive, Housing Hope and Volunteers of America.

It may seem as if the co-op has always been at the corner of Grand and California, but in fact it took a dedicated band of natural food devotees to bring it to life.

In early 1996, customers who’d shopped at Everett’s PCC Community Market store were wondering what to do. That store had closed.

A few months later, 100 of them got together and approved the launch of a new, local co-op. On March 3, 1997, the Sno-Isle Food Co-op opened its doors.

The Sno-Isle Food Co-op at 2804 Grand Ave. in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Sno-Isle Food Co-op at 2804 Grand Ave. in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Despite the pandemic’s many challenges, the co-op still draws a gaggle of shoppers, Scates said.

On a recent afternoon, George Caldwell, who is in charge of the store’s produce section, was extolling the flavors of the root vegetables, fall crops, such as rutabagas, parsnips and beets. After that, locally grown cabbage and winter squash would make their annual appearance, he said.

When it comes to fruits and veggies, Caldwell loves ”talking with customers who are very interested in knowing where there produce comes from,” he said.

“I’ve been here almost four years, and I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else,” Caldwell said.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com: 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, March 11, 2019, rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The number of deaths in major air crashes around the globe fell by more than half in 2019 according to a report released Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020, by the aviation consultancy To70, revealing the worst crash for the year was an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX on March 10 that lost 157 lives. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, FILE)
Former Boeing test pilot pleads not guilty in 737 Max case

He’s the first person to be charged with a crime in connection with the Indonesia and Ethiopia crashes.

Top (L-R): Kim Daughtry, Steve Ewing. Bottom (L-R): Gary Petershagen, Marcus Tageant.
Developers court Lake Stevens council incumbents with over $20K

Over half of the campaign dollars for four candidates came from people tied to real estate or property development.

Traffic drives in view of a massive Boeing Co. production plant, where images of jets decorate the hangar doors, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Everett, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing says workers must get the COVID vaccine by Dec. 8

“Compliance with these requirements is a condition of employment,” says an internal company presentation.

FILE - In this March 14, 2019 file photo, Ethiopian relatives of crash victims mourn at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, south-east of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. Relatives of some of the passengers who died in the crash will mark the two-year anniversary of the disaster on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, by seeking a reversal of government orders that let Boeing 737 Max jets fly again.  (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, File)
Boeing pilot involved in Max testing is indicted in Texas

He’s accused of giving the FAA false information about systems that played a role in two deadly crashes.

A handful of Northwest Union Carpenter members picket in front of the new Marysville civic center construction site on the sixth day of a region wide union carpenter strike on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Carpenters strike ends with new contract and a $10 raise

Roughly 500 union members were working on projects in Snohomish County. It was among the largest strikes in 18 years.

The Boeing 737 Max 10 airplane landing at Boeing Field in Seattle on June 18. (Chona Kasinger / Bloomberg)
Boeing ramps up 737 Max but 787 deliveries are still blocked

Boeing last month maintained its steady trickle of sales as it navigates the aviation downturn.

FILE - In this March 20, 2020, file photo, the Amazon campus outside the company headquarters in Seattle sits nearly deserted on an otherwise sunny and warm afternoon. Amazon said Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 it will allow many tech and corporate workers to continue working remotely indefinitely, as long as they can commute to the office when necessary. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Amazon to allow employees to work remotely indefinitely

Although most cannot work remotely because their duties include grabbing orders and delivering them.

With new owners demanding the Grand Apartments' longtime residents leave, Stephen Teixeira, 52, documents issues at the Rockefeller Avenue building, on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Life at the Grand Apartments in Everett is now a ‘nightmare’

Longtime residents say the new owner, an investment company, is trying to bully them out of the building.

Bob Martin, 80, owner of the The Stag Barber and Styling in Snohomish. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
$90,000 fine doesn’t stop defiant Snohomish barber

Bob Martin appealed a state penalty for ignoring coronavirus rules and lost. It has not cut into his business.

A handful of Northwest Union Carpenter members picket in front of the new Marysville civic center construction site on the sixth day of a region wide union carpenter strike on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Carpenters union strikes a deal, and members are set to vote

Workers are back on the job with a tentative agreement that includes a 15.43% raise over three years.

Ryan Welch, a produce clerk, restocks grapes at the Sno-Isle Food Co-op on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s Sno-Isle Food Co-op approaches its 25th anniversary

The enterprise hopes to add more square footage and more classroom space to the store on Grand Avenue.

Jeff Wagner and son Casey Wagner at their store, Wagner Jewelers, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After 41 years, Wagner Jewelers in Marysville still shines

When the Wagner brothers opened it in 1981, they were the only game in a pretty small town.