Submitted by The Olympia Food Co-op

I am cashiering at the Eastside Olympia Food Co-op. It is a busy Friday afternoon, and I am getting ready for the big rush to hit. A table is being set up close to my check out lane. Curious, I go visit, and find chocolate. Chocolate! Local chocolates! Honey sweetened chocolates! Soon, folks coming into my lane get side-tracked, and the talkative excitement around this display of lusciousness soon sounds like the buzz of bees.

The Olympia Food Co-op
Honeylove Chocolate. Photo courtesy: The Olympia Food Co-op.

This Olympia company, Honeylove Chocolate, is one of the latest additions to our large selection of chocolate treats. At the Eastside, there are a lot of chocolate options in the candy section, with a few other flavors here and there – though, mostly chocolate.  Some folks call it the “chocolate wall” – aptly named, as the entire wall behind the salad bar, is filled with so many varieties of chocolate that after four years of working here, I still can’t tell you all we offer.

Other sweet treats we have new to the store this December are not for the taste buds, though sweet, as –  oh, how sweet it is that we are reaching out  – how sweet it is that we are making room to support Local Artisans at the Westside Garden Center. There has been a transformation of this little store from the spring and summer plant-centric space into a winter–time collection of Local Artisan goodies. When first directed to pop in and take some pictures of the new items, I was anticipating the usual – the beautiful screen printed flags and tea towels, perhaps some Co-op tee shirts, and maybe an Allafia basket or two. It was a pleasant surprise to find a wonderful array of very local handcrafted goods – including goods from staff members I didn’t know were artisans! It was great fun poking around, finding a variety of creations, including hats, prints, pottery, jewelry – all tucked here and there amongst the still-in-season garden items. And, in the last week, double the artists have been added… definitely worth the visit again!

The Co-op has supported local artisans for many years, with the Eastside showcasing the popular fuzzy fun cute monster toys, hot pan holders made from re-purposed jeans, and the most recent edition has been a collection of mushroom spore prints in frames. For years, the Westside has been providing a marketing outlet for an important local organization, Ceilo, with selling their shopping bags made from a wide variety of fabrics. The handmade greeting cards from Artisans in our community have been a constant item of interest as well – in fact all of the cards are handmade!

The Olympia Food Co-op
Eastside Mercantile. Photo courtesy: Olympia Food Co-op.

And, a little side note here on supporting local artisans… here is a link to a blog post of my experience selling handmade calendars at the Co-op, and how it became the seed that lead to a full journey, bringing arts, music, and dance into our community and schools. In addition, it changed the way I shopped, discovering how I could change lives with how I choose to spend each dollar.

Considering using my dollar to support and change lives, I wonder – well, what of other goods I use on a daily basis? My pans? Kitchenware? Food storage? Glass or plastic? So, I did a little bit of research into a few of the manufactures we have in our mercantile departments and how their companies align with the Olympia Food Co-op’s Mission Statement. Here is what I found…

Both Eastside and Westside have Anchor – at the Westside, you can find measuring cups and storage ware, and at the Eastside… butter dishes. Both stores also carry Lodge iron cookware. And, want warm? The organic sock collection and leggings from Maggie’s can be found East and West. Soft. Warm. Cozy. And from personal experience – they last a very long time.

The Olympia Food Co-op
Westside Mercantile. Photo courtesy: Olympia Food Co-op

Speaking of soft, warm, and cozy, and an amazing company, Big Dipper Bees Wax of Seattle is also featured at both Co-ops, and the lines have been expanded to include a variety of interesting wax forms – such as deep green pine cones, brilliant orange pumpkins, and corn coming out of its husk.

And, a final thought – one I find vital to being a part of a world where one can make a difference with a purchase of a quality product – are you aware that Alaffia is based here in Olympia? They are an absolutely amazing company that helps folks in so many ways with the Alaffia Empowerment Projects. Here is a quick-to-see fact sheet of their progress:

  • 4,142 child births funded: full pre- and post-delivery care
  • Partnering with Togolese health clinics focusing on women’s health education
  • 7,100 bikes distributed
  • 23,700 school supply recipients
  • 1,855 school benches built
  • 10 schools built
  • 53,125 trees planted
  • 14,200 eyeglasses donated
The Olympia Food Co-op
Westside Greeting Cards. Photo courtesy: The Olympia Food Co-op.

The Olympia Food Co-op carries Alaffia products in both stores. The various items for body, face and hair care, as well as colorful woven baskets, bags and purses products, are found under these labels: Everyday Shea, Everyday Coconut, Alaffia Authentic, Queen Alaffia, and Beautiful Curls.

Incredible, huh? Here we are, in this little town on the edge of the backwaters of Puget Sound, and we can make a difference in our community and other folks’ lives with supporting our local artisans, USA-manufacturing companies, and villages so far away. Thank you, Olympia!


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