ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The People's Food Co-op of Ann Arbor has been serving the community since 1971. Their coffee shop, Cafe Verde, has become a local hot spot known for their unique pastries, Fair Trade coffee and live music events, and the Co-op's community classes are almost always full.
I sat down with their Marketing & Events Manager Stefanie Mitchell on their outdoor patio, who gave me some more insight into who they are and what they do.
The Co-op's Kerrytown storefront on N. 4th Avenue (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
How did the Co-op get its start?
Funny thing is, the Co-op started as a student project at the University of Michigan years and years ago (1971). At the time they just had bulk items and it was very limited. They were working out of someone’s home. That’s how it started and as you can imagine, Ann Arbor is such a tight knit community and they really love anything that has to do with promoting local products and the greater good for the earth and the environment, so it got pretty popular and we eventually grew and grew.
The Co-op's homemade granola is a member favorite (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Tell me how a membership works?
With a membership, you pay a one-time fee ($60) and it’s a lifetime membership. So even if you move away, you can still vote for our board of elections, and obviously if you come back into town you can get a discount. We have discounts every week on Wednesdays (10%). We have our membership event that we’ll be having next month in October where shoppers can come in and that whole weekend they’ll get their discount.You can come in and eat (samples) while you shop… it's a pretty great experience!
The Co-op strives to only sell seasonal produce harvested by local farmers (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
What are some of the highlight items that you sell and why is it important that you sell local?
Produce. We try to remain as seasonal as possible. In the fall we have squashes, corn and apples… so we make sure that we offer really good produce based on what the farmers are harvesting. We like to support local farmers.
We also have our bakery items. The bakery is amazing. We make a lot of things in-house, and sometimes we make bread in-house, too. We don’t carry it on our shelves year round, but every once in a while you will be able to catch us with some fresh loaves (in the store). We also do special-order birthday and anniversary cakes.
We make a lot of products using Michigan honey, so we keep the local honey on our shelves and in a lot of our bakery items. The cupcakes are amazing, people love our bagels, they love our granola. Café Verde - I honestly think it’s Kerrytown’s best kept secret. We have everything from teas to coffee to juices to smoothies. You can get a wheatgrass shot, you can get a lemongrass shot if your throat is bothering you because of this crazy weather!
You can (also) go to the hot bar and get something to eat that’s nutritious. Café Verde is definitely the shining star and we have live music there every Thursday from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Sometimes we have artists from other states, too, like Illinois or California, but we definitely like to highlight artists right here in Ann Arbor so we have live music every Thursday.
We routinely have local artists who display their work. It creates a nice backdrop while you’re in Café Verde - a lot of people come here to work and have meetings. Local artists can show off their work, get some exposure and we also have a meet and great with each artist that showcases their work. You can come out and meet them and they explain their techniques, why they do what they do, what their pieces of art mean, it’s just a really cool experience. So that’s just another element we add to the community feeling at the Co-op.
Cafe Verde is known for its unique baked goods (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Tell us about your events
All of our events are free, which is awesome. And you don’t have to be a member to join a class. They’re really popular. Keegan, our head baker, is responsible for all the ideas that we have in terms of what we carry in the bakery. He hosts the classes. We have chocolate making classes, bread making classes, you can learn how to make different sauces. And he does a series (on each topic), so there will be a series on sauces, a series on breads, a series on chocolate or pies. Within each series, he teaches about 4 classes on each topic and its different every time. We also have wellness classes like natural herbs and how to best take care of your pet, so it’s not just food.
Local artist showcase at Cafe Verde (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
What keeps your members coming back?
What keeps people coming back is they love Ann Arbor and they love the Co-op. People really love what we do and what we provide for the town because we care about sustainability and the environment. We care about what you put into your body, the types of foods you eat, even what you put on your skin. We try and make sure that we give people a place where they know that what their buying is healthy and isn’t full of toxins and bad products.
You’re not just shopping with us because you want to get something organic, you’re shopping with us because we really give back to the community. We want to provide a haven for people to come work or have meetings or just hang out with friends and grab a bite to eat. We just want it to be a feel good, neighborhood place.
Want to become a member? Join here.
Check out the Co-ops upcoming events here.