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When I tell my kids (all born in the early aughts) stories about what life was like in the 1990s, I have to remember that I’m referencing a time that to them that is slightly familiar but mostly foreign and exotic. By the time they started forming memories, personal computers, cell phones and the internet were all common place in daily life; most of which, we had none, or at best, a rudimentary version of in the 90s. And with this Luddite era as a backdrop, I started my journey at Outpost Natural Foods.

Living in a crowded punk house on Milwaukee’s East Side, I played guitar in a band with three of my roommates. In 1994 our band’s goal was to move to the East Coast, but when that didn’t work out, I found myself without a job and hazy plans for my future. My bandmate worked at the café at Outpost’s Capitol Drive store (our co-op’s only location at that time), and he encouraged me to apply for an open cashier position…And as they say, the rest is history.

At first, I thought my job was like any other retail position I had had in the past. My plan was to only stay for a couple of months, but as time passed, something kept me at the co-op. I really liked my co-workers and the customers; but most important, I felt really welcomed here…like I was part of a big new family. And as I learned more about what being a co-op meant, I became really proud to work for a business with ethical values that supports and is owned by our community.

When a new position was created in 1997 that focused on co-op owner services, I applied and was hired. In the 24 years that I’ve held various versions of this ownership-focused position, I’ve learned so much about the world of cooperatives, met many amazing intelligent people who care deeply about our co-op and our community and have been given the opportunity to build a career that has more meaning and impact than you would typically find at a conventional company.

Looking back at my long history at the co-op and reflecting on the fact that we celebrate Outpost’s 52nd birthday in April, I find myself starting to think about how the co-op is different from when I was first hired here in 1994. But I stop myself and find comfort in all the ways that the co-op is still the same and are reflected in the following pages of this magazine: A commitment to local, organic, delicious food; a passion to serve the members of our community; and a dedication and loyalty to the owners of Outpost who make it possible for us to provide you with the goods and services you’ve come to expect from your co-op.

This isn’t my farewell story; nor is it Outpost’s. We all have a lot of purposeful work yet to do. As it was in 1994, and in 1970 the year the co-op was formed, we eagerly and thoughtfully continue our cooperative journey so that our owners have a healthy, diverse, and sustainable community to call our own.

By Mari Wood

Cooperative Relations Manager


In this issue:

WORLD PANCAKES They're not just for breakfast anymore

THE CO-OP DIFFERENCE Produce to the people

TORTILLERIA ZEPEDA Authentic tortillas from Wisconsin

UNTITLED ART Wisconsin's mad booze geniuses

and more!





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