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Staff Picks

One of the most important things that keeps Willy Street Co-op running smoothly day in and day out is our talented and dedicated team of staff members, but what keeps the staff running—and lifting, stacking, ordering, culling, counting, and delivering? Not only do we believe in bringing the best foods to our members, we also enjoy consuming those same products. Many people who work at the Co-op are passionate about cooking and eating great food at home. We share food with our families and friends and grow it in our gardens, and we thought it might be fun to share some of our favorite Co-op foods with you, too!

As a staff, our common interest in good food splits into an array of different favorite foods and styles of eating. We have several staff members who are vegetarian or vegan, many who are feeding children, and some with allergies or other health issues who prioritize their dietary choices to get or stay well. As with our owners, most staff members rate local produce among their top Co-op choices; the bulk aisle is another favorite when we shop, but what else do we buy?

Meat and Potatoes-Style Vegan

Evan Coleman is a longtime member of the Grocery team and says he has a passion for corn and rice and loves reading about their history as well as eating them. Evan is a vegan, but grew up eating meat and potatoes and still often turns to meals of that type. Today, though, he eats seitan instead of meat and substitutes products like Health is Wealth chicken-free nuggets, Spud Puppies and Vegenaise in his meals. When it comes to rice, Evan heads to the Bulk aisle for short grain brown rice or jasmine rice. He especially enjoys jasmine rice: “I love the way jasmine tastes; it seems like I am eating something fancy.”

Food allergy

James Phetteplace came to the Co-op almost two years ago and is one of our IT wizards. James currently eats a partially vegetarian diet that is a mix of whole foods and convenience products. He enjoys cooking and that helps to simplify his life since he has to accommodate an oral allergy syndrome. As a cross-reaction to seasonal allergies, James is unable to eat raw fruits or vegetables without experiencing strong symptoms. James likes to prepare pasta salads for himself that incorporate Tinkyada brown rice gluten-free pasta and an assortment of cooked organic vegetables. Some of his other favorite Co-op products include Organic Valley 2% milk, Terra Chips, Blue Sky Green Tea Soda, and Nature’s Bakery Apple Crunch Granola from the Bulk aisle.

On the topic of food allergies, James says, “I hope you don’t have a food allergy. If you do, it isn’t the end of the world. Over time, I have just made a habit of avoiding the things I can’t eat, and reading labels. I still enjoy great food, and I think the Co-op is a great place to shop if you do have food allergy issues—our employees are well-informed, and our product choices are spectacular.”

Eating for two

Kelly Kemp has worked as a cashier and shift supervisor in the Front End for more than three years and also as part of the home-delivery team. Kelly has been a vegetarian since eighth grade, usually eating what she calls an “okay” diet, but for the past several months she and her partner have been boning up on vegetarian nutrition to provide a healthy start for the baby they are expecting this fall. She loves the fresh fruit and vegetables in the Produce department and also the Green Dream smoothies at the Juice Bar, which contain spirulina. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is very high in complete protein and a good source of B-vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. The salad bar is a favorite with Kelly because it provides an easy source of leafy greens that she augments with protein-rich choices like cottage cheese or bean salad. At home, Kelly makes smoothies with fruit, wheat germ, protein powder and yogurt; she likes yogurt from Seven Stars Farm or Stonyfield’s Yo-Calcium (formerly known as 2-a-Day), which has twice the calcium of most brands of yogurt. Kelly enjoys Lifestream’s frozen Hemp Plus waffles, which provide 2000mg of Omega 3 fatty acids per serving and also loves Amy’s Kitchen refried beans and Almond Breeze non-dairy milk.

Snack attack

Brendon Smith has been the Co-op’s Director of Communications for the past five years. His co-workers are used to seeing a big plate of salad on his desk, or a sandwich from the Deli at lunchtime, but we also know that this is the man to see for a snack! Brendon grew up eating very limited amounts of sugar and still reaches for crunchy and savory snacks before sweets. He maintains control over his habit by having just one snack per day, in a “fairly reasonable” portion. Brendon often reaches for Stacy’s Pita Chips-either the Simply Naked or Parmesan Garlic & Herb variety—and says “there is almost always a bag on my desk, except when my co-workers have finished it off!” Other savory favorites include fresh carrots; sesame stix or whole, salted and roasted cashews from the Bulk aisle; and Que Pasa white corn tortilla chips, which have the perfect amount of crunch and salt according to Brendon. He also hits the Bulk aisle for sweet snacks, including dried mango or papaya; raspberry yogurt-covered pretzels; and High Country Gorp Chunks of Energy. At home Brendon likes smoothies made with Cascadian Farms frozen organic berries and organic bananas. Brendon suggests we all “snack on!”

Cleansing diet

As our Communications Art Coordinator since 2000, Amber McGee is probably our most visible “artist-in-residence.” She was raised on a fresh, whole foods diet, but became very strict about food during her teen and young adult years in an effort to mitigate the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. Slowly, but surely though, Amber relaxed her vigilance as the years passed, but recently put herself back on a strict regime to cope with flare-ups of her illness. Her diet is fresh, and high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber. She eats only limited quantities of meat and dairy products and only very occasional amounts of any sweetener. Amber drinks lots of water and teas that assist cleansing, including Pau d’Arco for inflammation. Her favorite Co-op foods include all fruits and vegetables, but she especially likes beets for their detoxifying qualities. Amber also enjoys a variety of fresh sprouts, which have been shown to help relieve symptoms of arthritis. She frequents the Bulk aisle for its “...grainy, less processed goodness, especially the number of different types of rice. I can have red rice one day, then brown, then helps keep my dinners from becoming boring and each rice has a different flavor too.” Amber enjoys using a variety of Asian condiments and appreciates the flavor boost they add to simple steamed grains and vegetables. Her favorites include Thai Kitchen curry paste and Ethnic Gourmet simmer sauces and she says, “I like those because they’re an easy way to make veggie/bean sauces with a lot of flavor for over rice and they last so long.” Amber replaces dairy products with Silk soymilk; she finds the flavor and texture of this brand to be more similar to cow’s milk than many others.


Kathy Kemnitz joined the Co-op staff five years ago and has worked as a cashier, at Customer Service, in maintenance and as a housewares stocker. Though she has been a vegetarian in the past, Kathy and her family now eat meat, but in reduced quantities. Kathy is careful to buy products that are “, small-farm raised and ethically slaughtered. I do not mind paying what may seem like exorbitant amounts of money for quality meat. I think it should be costly as it helps it be a once-in-a-while food and may remind some of us how valuable this is.”

Her favorites: “I’m a fan of the Southeast Minnesota Food Network beef. Southeast Minnesota Food Network is a company that supports regional family farms, sustainability and land stewardship. Their beef products are beautifully marbleized which leads me to believe that the animals are treated and fed well. The lamb we carry from Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms, especially the lamb/pork summer sausage sticks and the lamb shoulder. Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms is local (Delevan, WI) and their product is crazy fresh. I had the privilege of meeting Steve and Darlene Pinnow when they were in the Co-op with shoulder samples. Oh, my, gosh!!! I am now a lamb convert. I like the Applegate Farm products for my kiddo’s lunches and snacks.”

Quick kid faves

Kerrie Lentz joined the Front End staff two years ago. She picks foods that the kids in her household enjoy, but focuses on products that are quick for parents to fix after a full day at work or extended playground time. Kerrie and her partner make sure that their choices are organic, mostly whole grain, low in sugar and free of hydrogenated oils. Kerrie recommends Lifestream flax waffles with Earth Balance and Andersons local grade B maple syrup from the Bulk aisle or Living Harvest vanilla hemp milk on Barbara’s Shredded Spoonfuls or Vanilla Almond Shredded Oats cereals for breakfast. Other morning favorites include New Century Farm eggs, Matthew’s whole-wheat English muffins, Applegate Sunday Bacon, or Sugar River Dairy vanilla yogurt mixed with organic fruit. Lunch is often a sandwich made on Nature’s Bakery whole-wheat bread or Ezekiel Bread from Kamm’s. Quorn nuggets are kid-pleasers at dinner; other evening favorites are Nature’s Bakery Tofu-Walnut burgers, Bountiful Bean tofu or homemade pizza on a Vicolo cornmeal crust with Muir Glen’s pizza sauce. Sibby’s chocolate ice cream is a favorite dessert choice. Everyone in the house enjoys the wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables in the Produce department, especially the abundant locally grown offerings. Kerrie says her family loves these (and many other) foods “...because they are mostly healthy, mostly local, and definitely convenient and delicious.”

East meets Midwest

Catherine King is a familiar face to home delivery customers; she has also worked as a cook at the Production Kitchen and behind the Deli counter. Catherine is a fan of Indian, Lao and Thai foods, but also still enjoys things she grew up eating such as corn on the cob, steak with garlic-mashed potatoes or a creating a good fish fry with potato pancakes. When it comes to food, she says, “The fresher and spicier the better!” In addition to fresh produce she likes to spice things up with the Seeds of Change Indian Simmer Sauces. A cooler favorite is Carr Valley cheese, especially the Cocoa Cardona.

Gluten-free Foods

Addie Greenwood has been working at the Co-op for over three years and brews up coffee drinks and juices at the Juice Bar. She has adopted a gluten-free lifestyle because her significant other has a gluten allergy. They eat lots of fruits and vegetables, buthave also discovered many gluten-free products that make for more fun and varied eating. Addie says, “Gluten-free shopping can be a little intimidating at first, but if you’re going to be anywhere where it’s made easy, it’s at the Co-op. We have a regularly updated list of all of the gluten-free items we carry and a number of staff that are well educated and versed in gluten-free foods. Stop by the Juice Bar Tuesday through Friday and I’d be happy to recommend a product or help you find something. Good luck!”

Here’s Addie’s list of favorites:

  • Lundberg Brown Rice Chips: “These come in a variety of flavors but the ones that have tested well with my taste buds are the sesame and seaweed flavor.”
  • Gluten-Free Pantry French bread and pizza mix: “This brand is a lifesaver! The pizza crust turns out so well and they also carry a piecrust mix along with a cookie mix.”
  • Xochitl Stone-Ground Corn Chips: “You would think that all corn chips would be gluten-free because they’re made out of corn right? Watch out, often times they have ‘natural flavor’ added to them which sometimes means gluten. Xochitl are certified gluten-free and delicious!”
  • Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta Shells: “Tinkyada makes a whole line of gluten-free pasta, perfect for a cold winter night when you really want that home-style macaroni and cheese. The Co-op also carries a bunch of clear rice noodles that are great for Pad Thai and stir-fry dishes.”
  • Food for Life Brown Rice Bread: “A lot of gluten-free breads are unappealing to us, but this one does the trick when we need a sandwich for the road.”
  • Erewhon Rice Twice Whole Grain Cereal: “This cereal is amazing! They have a couple of different flavors and are moderately priced.”
  • Vans All Natural Blueberry Waffles: “You will not be able to tell the difference between these waffles and waffles containing gluten-a perfect quick morning breakfast before work.”
  • Organic Rice Divine Frozen Dessert: “Yum, this brand has cleared up all those tears we had when we first found out that almost all ice cream has gluten in it. My favorite is the mango coconut flavor.”
  • Kinnikinnick Tapioca Rice Hot dog and Hamburger buns: “You can only buy these in the frozen section, but they thaw out well and are perfect to take to all those summer BBQs you’re invited to.
  • Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste: We love Thai food and are often cooking up a storm with this brand. Most restaurant curries have gluten in them so just follow the recipe on the jar and you’ll be recreating your favorites in no time.
  • Willy Street Co-op Chocolate chip cookies made without gluten: Made fresh almost daily and located at the Juice Bar. The Willy Street Co-op Bakery makes a whole line of items without gluten; try the cornbread and the pumpkin apple muffins!”

Jack Kear, the Co-op’s event planner, lists these as his favorite products:

  • Golden Temple Bakery’s bulk wild blueberry granola with flax
  • Frontera frozen pizza singles
  • Willy Street Co-op’s baba ganouj (“the best ever”)
  • Bombay jarred Indian sauces
  • Organic Valley 2% milk (with the pizza!)

Tim Ruddy at the Juice Bar is a raw foods enthusiast, so his favorite Co-op products are simple things, including:

  • Nama Shoyu (Unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • Bulk Hulled Hemp Seeds
  • Maca Root Powder
  • Golden Flax Seeds
  • Parsley shots from the Juice Bar

Liam Donohue has worked several positions at the Co-op including Front End, Deli/Juice Bar and Administration and says these are the best:

  • Bulk organic rice
  • Bulk organic beans
  • Bulk granola
  • Organic local produce
  • “Nothing” muffins from the Willy Street Co-op Bakery
  • Sugar River Dairy low fat yogurt

Tamara Urich has chaired the Customer Service Desk since our move to this location. Her favorites are:

  • Quorn Tenders
  • Rudi’s Organic Spelt Tortillas
  • El Rey’s Tortilla Chips (any kind)
  • Organic local produce
  • Aztec Quinoa Salad from the Deli
  • Ben and Jerry’s Crème Brulee or Cinnamon Buns Ice Cream

Sarah Dahl, Human Resources Manager, recommends these treats:

  • Green Zinger juice from the Juice Bar
  • Sheba Bars from the Willy Street Co-op Bakery
  • Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice with Cranberries Soup from the Deli
  • Willy Street Co-op Deli’s Veggie Cream Cheese
  • Willy-packed raspberry yogurt pretzels
  • Bulk butter toffee peanuts

Josh Perkins keeps things running smoothly at our Production Kitchen and is an excellent chef; here is his list of favorite ingredients:

  • Beelor’s hickory smoked bacon
  • Willow Creek pork
  • Just Coffee
  • Willy Street Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Organic Valley butter
  • New Century Farm eggs

Becca Schill was a familiar face in the Front End for many years and now works in the Finance department. Her favorites include:

  • Local organic produce
  • Vicolo Organic Cornmeal Pizza Crusts
  • Peanut Butter Zigzag Soy Delicious Frozen Non-dairy Dessert
  • Rudi’s Organic Flax Seed English Muffins
  • Simple Soyman Tofu Pate

Erik Meitner in the IT department recommends:

  • Hass organic avocadoes
  • Seven Stars Plain Organic Yogurt
  • Willy Street Co-op Cowgirl Cookies
  • Garden Of Eatin’ Bible Bread Pita Bread
  • Xochitl Mexican Style Corn Chips

Brandy Boyle is the Produce Assistant Manager and of course she loves all our produce offerings, but also lists these products among her favorite choices:

  • Eco Teas organic, unsmoked Yerba Mate
  • Hemp milk, original
  • Gentle Breeze Honey
  • Rudi’s spelt tortillas
  • Bulk organic roasted, salted cashew pieces
  • Cherry Lara Bars
  • Bulk fresh ground almond butter
  • Vicolo Cornmeal Pizza Crust
  • Seven Stars Maple Yogurt
  • Nature’s Choice mango sorbet
  • Fabulous Flats garlic naan bread
  • Arora Creations Indian food
  • Alexia Sweet Potato Fries
  • Willy Street Co-op “Nothing” Muffins

Ariel Timon is the able assistant manager in the Human Resources office. She recommends these products:

  • Just Coffee
  • Organic Valley Half & Half
  • Sauté Mix from Harmony Valley
  • Most all of our produce
  • Jyoti Indian food in a can

Joe Disch has worked in the Produce and Packaged Grocery departments for several years and these days is part of the Flow of Goods staff, making sure that pricing and inventory are working smoothly. His says to try these items:

  • Organic produce
  • Apple Rush (pomegranate flavor)
  • Lifestream Hemp Waffles
  • Vegan Mac & Cheese from the Deli
  • Earth Balanced Peas and Carrots from the Deli

Liam Rainwater has worked as a cashier, dishwasher and in the Deli. He is currently an accounts payable clerk and payroll clerk in the Finance department. His favorites include:

  • Organic produce
  • Bountiful Bean Tempeh
  • Vegan Mac & Cheese from the Deli
  • Rescue Remedy
  • Rainwater Shampoo (of course)

As the Communications Assistant, Chris Hoffman is responsible for much of the look of our website and the signage throughout the store. Chris has also worked in the Deli and the Front End. His list of favorites is dominated by Willy-made goodies:

  • Willy Street Co-op’s Inner Peace fresh juice
  • Willy Street Co-op’s Nothing Muffin
  • Willy Street Skillet from the Deli
  • Willy Street Co-op’s Jambalaya from the Deli
  • Willy Street Co-op’s Pita Sandwich from the Deli
  • Raspberries and Cream Bulk Granola with Fage Total 0% yogurt
  • Fair Trade bananas
  • Dried mango
  • Fair Trade coffee (Just Coffee, etc.)

Lynn Olson, Cooperative Services Manager likes these:

  • Just Coffee—La Fem or Las Diosas blends
  • Fresh organic garlic
  • Turano’s Pane Loaf
  • Bountiful Bean Herb Tofu!!!!

Jason Week works in the Front End and his picks include:

  • Fage Yogurt
  • Bulk nutritional yeast
  • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • Curry Cashew Chicken Salad from the Deli
  • Any greens from Produce

Ashley Wermager in the Front End recommends these:

  • Green Dream Smoothie from the Juice Bar
  • Vicolo’s Cornmeal Pizza Crust
  • Lightlife Fakin Bacon Tempeh Strips
  • Nothing Muffins
  • The produce

Marcus Dushack keeps track of what is moving in and out of our Production Kitchen. He likes:

  • Deli Macaroni Salad - when it’s made with enough apple cider vinegar!
  • Sheba Bars from our bakers
  • Berry Crumble Bars from our bakers
  • Kettle Chips—Honey Dijon
  • Nantucket Nectars—Blueberry Banana Juice
  • Just Coffee—Las Diosas blend

Katie Powderly can be found stocking produce most days; she’s also worked in Frozen Grocery. Katie’s favorites include:

  • The Produce department, everything organic, but also young green coconut
  • The Juice Bar’s Omega Balance Smoothie
  • Reverse osmosis water
  • Just Coffee, served at the Juice Bar
  • Rishi Jasmine Pearl Green Tea
  • All Suki facial products for normal to dry skin
  • Willow Creek pork chops
  • The Seafood Center’s salmon

Liz Wermcrantz edits the Reader and also picks up some hours in the Flow of Goods department. Liz prefers:

  • The quinoa salads from the Deli
  • El Rey Tortilla Chips
  • Our sushi
  • Dried mango
  • Primal Spirit Thai Peanut Seitan Jerky
  • Nothing Muffins
  • Rio Star grapefruit (in season)
  • Organic pineapples
  • Green & Black’s organic chocolate bars
  • Sibby’s Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Vicolo Cornmeal Pizza Crusts

Andy Klay helps shoppers in the Health and Wellness department. He recommends:

  • Santa Barbara canned olives
  • Local organic watermelon
  • Cordyceps mushroom liquid tincture
  • Organic produce
  • Avocadoes

Those are some of our favorite Co-op products. Is there something new in the list that might become your favorite too?