As the new year begins, it is a time to think about resolutions and change. Entering 2022 means that we are entering our 50th Anniversary here at the Co-op which makes for the perfect opportunity to think about some of the changes that have been made here over those 50 years. This is by no means a complete list as the nature of the Co-op, like with most things, is in a constant state of change and evolution. This is, however, a chance to reflect on some of the ways we have stayed true to the Co-op’s values even as we have grown from a buying club of 10 households to a full service grocery store with 10,000 Owners.
Interested to read more about the Co-op’s foundation? Check out “Looking Back: A Davis Food Co-op History (1972-1984)” by Chris Laning.
1) The People’s Food Conspiracy Begins (1972)
1972: The year that it all began. A buying club was organized by UC Davis students that were interested in buying their food straight from the supplier. This small group of households started by collectively purchasing cheese, produce and bulk dry goods together. These products would then be distributed amongst the members in the living rooms and garages of the members’ households. This early group was not only interested in sourcing natural foods at bulk prices, they were interested in structures that existed outside of the traditional capitalistic model. Because of this, the early name chosen by the founding members was “The People’s Food Conspiracy”.
2) The move to the Co-op’s First Storefront (1976)
Perhaps the most influential change in the early years of the Co-op to get us to where we are now came in 1976 with the move into a storefront on L Street. This 600 square foot former bulk dog-food store helped to further formalize an organization that started off as a buying club that had multiple storage points around town.
3) Vote to Begin Incorporation and First Bylaws Introduced (1977)
During a Policy Meeting in 1977, Owners approved a vote to begin proceedings to officially incorporate as a cooperative corporation. The advantages of incorporating included increased credibility, the possibility of reducing taxes through patronage refunds to members, and limited liability protection of members’ personal assets if the co-op were ever to be sued. The first proposed bylaws were also drafted during this time and went through many revisions.
4) Move to second storefront (1978)
In another important milestone, and only two years after the first move, a bigger storefront on 5th Street became the home of the Davis Food Co-op. Just a couple blocks away, this 2,160 square foot space relied on member loans to finance the move and was done quickly, just in time to beat out another potential tenant who wanted the space as well!
5) The Co-op’s first Paid Staff (1978)
Originally operated by Member-Owners that were asked to volunteer their time as a condition of Ownership, it eventually became a topic of conversation to consider introducing paid staff. Needing help most urgently with bookkeeping, it was a part-time bookkeeping position that became the first paid staff position at the Co-op.
6) Introduction of the Carrot & Fist Logo (1978)
Several logos had been used in the early years of the Co-op. Before this one, the most prominent was the two pine trees in a circle which is a well-known symbol for co-ops around the world and is still used today. The carrot & fist logo in the late 70s came about as the winner of a design contest voted on by Owners and was adopted as the Co-op’s trademark at the time. The symbolic logo with its proud proclamation of “Food For People, Not For Profit” is the perfect representation of the values that drove the inception of the DFC and still fuel our purpose as a co-op today.
7) Introduction of the First Product with White Sugar as an Ingredient (1978)
While this may seem uneventful by today’s standards, the idea of the Co-op carrying anything with white sugar was extremely taboo in the first decade of its existence. The founding Ownership of the Co-op focused on bringing mainly healthy foods from small or local businesses as opposed to junk food from large corporations. However, the Mystic Mint cookies, made with real cocoa, peppermint oil, and yes, white sugar, broke the typical product mold and served as a representative item for how product selection would happen at the Co-op. At the end of the day, the Co-op is member-owned and must make decisions that reflect the Ownership’s desires. That is why today you will still see some conventional products among our selection of organic and local selections.
8) Officially incorporated as Davis Food Coop Inc (1981)
A process to officially incorporate that started in 1978 was completed two and a half years later in 1981. The reason for the lengthy process had a lot to do with the Ownership finalizing some important pieces of the bylaws as well as cleaning up some of the files that could prove Ownership at the time.
9) The Final Store Relocation (1984)
The site of the former Safeway on G Street had been a topic of conversation for many years among Co-op Owners at the time and had actually gone to a failed vote a couple of years prior. However, without the ability to further expand at 5th Street and with no other buildings available that made sense for a grocery store, the G Street location re-emerged as the most logical move. The decision was taken to a vote in which the measure passed with 76% voting in favor in what was the biggest voter turnout in the Co-op’s history at the time.
10) The First Annual Holiday Meal (1985)
An LGBTQ couple, who were both employees of the Co-op, had no plans for the Holidays because neither of their families would take them in. The couple, recognizing that there were others facing the same dilemma, organized a meal for any and all to attend. The event continued the following year, and every year since, evolving into a community wide effort on Christmas Eve to provide a free and warm meal for as many as 700 people. While the COVID-19 pandemic the past two years has changed the format of this event from a sit down meal to a take out meal, we have still been able to feed hundreds of people and will continue to do so each Christmas Eve.
11) Introduction of the new Sky & Fields Logo (1988)
As the Co-op evolved, so did the logo that represented it. The late 80s saw a switch to the Sky & Fields logo which paid homage to the agricultural bounty and beauty in the region in that the Co-op sources from and represents.
12) First Major Interior Remodel of the G Street Store (1992)
In a proper grocery store location and with 20 years under its belt, the Co-op began some extensive renovations to the interior of the store. While these changes to expand and improve would be far from the last changes made to the store, these significant strides would help pave the way for the store as we know it today.
13) Vote on a Proposal for a Second Store Fails (1993)
The idea of opening a second store in another part of town had long been discussed and debated. In 1993, the Ownership base voted to make a final decision on a particular proposal. The proposal was put forth for the Co-op to have a second store in West Davis in the Farm Town Shopping Center on Lake Blvd (now known as Westlake Plaza). However, the vote was tallied and the proposal failed amongst the Owners at the time.
14) Installation of Davis Cooperative Centennial Clock (1997)
The installation of this clock is best described by the inscription on the plaque that accompanies it:
“The Davisville Almond Growers Association was formed on January 31, 1897. Thus began the first century of cooperative enterprise in Davis. That group of Davis growers became leaders in the creation of Blue Diamond Growers; now, one of the largest cooperatives in California. Later, the co-op leaders played a key role in bringing the University Farm to Davis. The almond co-op formed on G Street was the first in the development of the “City of Cooperatives.” From artists to artesanos, childcare to co-housing, students to seniors, domes to homes, today over thirty cooperative enterprises meet many kinds of needs. This plaque marks the place where the Cooperative Centenary Clock was commemorated. Celebrate with us the hopes and aspirations for a new millennium for cooperatives.”
15) Exterior Remodel to the Patio (1997)
Working with local architect Maria Ogrydziak, the Co-op began to make some exterior remodels that made the store feel more communal and iconic. From Maria’s website: “The Davis Food Co-op wanted to convert an existing, “big-box” grocery store in an undistinguished strip mall into a visible destination that would be the ‘green’ heart of a vibrant, participatory community. Besides selling locally sourced produce and goods, the Co-op should be a place to meet and socialize with other members. The membership-funded project represented an important moment in the history of the Davis Food Co-op – as it sought a larger presence in the growing farm-to-fork movement in the heart of the agricultural California Central Valley.”
16) Introduction of the Co-op Sign (1997)
Likely the most notable and recognizable feature of the Co-op as you approach the store is the giant Co-op sign that greets you. This iconic addition to the store created an instant identity and brand while simultaneously reminding shoppers about that one major thing that makes this store different than the other grocery stores in town. It is a proud declaration and a personality; it is everything that the Co-op represents.
17) Received Environmental Recognition Award from the City of Davis (1997)
The City of Davis makes an annual recognition of the environmental contributions of an individual or group, a business, and a non-profit organization that have gone above and beyond to improve the environmental quality of life in and around Davis. First introduced in 1995, honorees of the award are said to “set an example of how to conduct business, set up a home or school environment, and/or live daily in a manner that encourages sustainability and harmony with nature”. The Davis Food Co-op first won this award in 1997 and won again in 2001.
18) Purchase of Teaching Kitchen Building (2000)
In staying true to the fifth cooperative principle, the Co-op is always looking for ways to be an educational pillar for the community. In purchasing the building at 537 G Street across from the store, the Co-op opened up new opportunities to introduce Teaching Kitchen classes that cover a wide variety of offerings.
19) Installation of Tomato Sculpture (2000)
Another iconic fixture of the Co-op’s entrance is the “Portrait of a Plump Tomato” sculpture by local artist Gerald Heffernon. Made of epoxy and automotive paint, this Davis landmark has become the mascot of the Co-op and another nod to the agriculture that has helped build not only the store, but the region in which it resides.
20) Installation of Solar Panels (2000)
In continuing with the strides to be a business that was committed to sustainability and the environment, the Co-op made the decision to install solar panels atop its roof to help power the store with renewable energy. This would help the Co-op win its second Environmental Recognition Award from the City of Davis in 2001.
21) First Patronage Refund Issued to Shareholders (2004)
One of the perks of Ownership and principles of cooperatives is Member Economic Participation. In profitable years, the Board can make the decision to allocate money to go back to Owners in the form of a Patronage Refund. This refund is based on an Owner’s shopping over that fiscal year and every Owner, no matter how long they have been one, is eligible. 2004 was the first year that this was possible.
22) Mermaid Sushi Opens at the Co-op (2006)
It is hard to imagine a Co-op today without Mermaid Sushi behind the counter. However, it was not until 2006 that this business, with other locations across the West Coast, began renting space next to the Co-op’s Deli Department. They have been there ever since serving up the highest quality fresh and sustainable sushi.
23) The First “Carrots in the Classroom” Teaching Kitchen Class for Kids (2006)
What good is education for the community if the kiddos aren’t involved? Starting in 2006, kids classes began in the Teaching Kitchen to get them interested how fun and tasty nutritious foods can be. This education has continued and today you can find an entire page dedicated to kids on our website here.
24) Complete Rebrand and Introduction of Current Logo (2009)
The Co-op’s branding as we know it today came largely from big changes that took place in 2009. Focusing on the iconic tomato and sign that define the Co-op, the new logo sought to highlight these symbols as the face of the Co-op.
25) Installation of New Cash Register System (2010)
A new decade at the Co-op was welcomed with an improved cash register system. This system would allow for a greater ease of transaction and linking to Ownership accounts.
26) Installation of “The Four Growing Seasons” Mosaic (2010)
One of the most beautiful pieces of art in the city of Davis is on the Co-op’s patio and it is titled “The Four Growing Seasons” by the late Mark Rivera. This extraordinary piece depicts local agriculture throughout the four seasons with our planet as the centerpiece. This piece will be a continuous reminder of the reason that the Co-op came to be and still exists today as well as a way to always honor a beloved local artist.
27) Installation of “Care-Rooted” Carrot Statue (2012)
The Co-op’s 40th Anniversary was commemorated with another Mark Rivera piece at the Co-op. Another ode to agriculture and the Co-op’s roots greets everyone as they enter the parking lot at the Co-op.
28) Updated Energy Efficient Beer Coolers (2014)
The only thing better than cold beer is cold beer that came from an energy efficient cooler. This is one of the many changes and upgrades that the Co-op has made over the years to ensure that it is operating as sustainably as possible.
29) Upgraded to Energy Efficient Meat Case (2014)
Following the installation of the energy efficient beer cooler came the energy efficient meat case. This made it so that all of the coolers along the back wall of the Co-op were energy efficient.
30) “In the Key of Davis” community piano comes to the Co-op (2015)
What is now a great annual tradition of hearing piano sounds around town made its introduction at the Co-op in 2015. This was a seasonal program from In the Key of Davis to put community pianos out at landmarks in the city of Davis. Today, however, the piano at the Co-op has become one that will live in that spot on the patio year-round.
31) Introduction of Co+op Basics Program (2016)
Along with the rest of the stores who are also members of the National Cooperative Grocers, the Co-op introduced a program called the Co+op Basics Program. The Co+op Basics program is a selection of staple foods and household goods—including natural and organic products—that are priced below the suggested retail. The Co-op is able to offer this program not by paying less to employees or farmers, but instead, by working with a network of other cooperatively owned food stores across the country to negotiate lower prices on healthy, organic, and natural products.
32) Switch to Sustainable Landscaping (2017)
With California’s drought continuing to worsen, it became more and more evident that water wise solutions be found both for homes and businesses. The Co-op responded by switching to drought tolerant native landscaping around both the store and Teaching Kitchen.
33) Extensive Store Remodel (2018)
The biggest store remodel to date started in 2018. This remodel included a focus on sustainability and enhancing the shopping experience. Some key highlights emphasized were removal of the old stone wall, the Bulk department moving to front and center of the store, new signage, upgraded lighting throughout the store, and installation of even more energy efficient equipment. The new layout also made the store much easier to navigate. With wider aisles and lower shelves, products became easier to access for everyone.
34) Started Prepacking Meat (2019)
While it may seem counterintuitive, beginning to prepackage meat actually helped to save plastic. It was found that the vacuum sealed method for the prepacked meats was actually less resource intensive than having your meat wrapped at the counter. For food safety, Meat clerks must change gloves and plastic film often when handling various meats for each customer, which adds up quickly. So although the prepacked meat comes in plastics instead of butcher paper, much less plastic is used in the overall process.
35) Switch to 100% Renewable Energy (2019)
In another huge step towards sustainability, the Co-op opted in to Valley Clean Energy’s UltraGreen Program. This program is available to everyone in Yolo County and ensures that both the store and Teaching Kitchen are powered by 100% renewable energy.
36) Addition of Customer Service and Wellness Counters (2019)
Another result of the large remodel was the introduction of the Customer Service and Wellness counters. These two desks are perfect customer service areas for shoppers to get all of their questions answered and special orders placed.
37) Launch of Curbside Pickup Program (2020)
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Co-op became the first grocery store in Davis to launch its own Curbside Pickup program. This allowed for contactless pickup of all of one’s grocery needs and is a service that is planned to be kept moving forward.
38) Opening of The Freedge (2020)
Joining other pickup locations around town, the Co-op became a location for “The Freedge”, a free community refrigerator that encourages people to take what they need and donate what they don’t need or are able to give. This is one part of the Co-op’s food rescue efforts.
39) Launch of “The Heirloom” Digital Newsletter (2020)
After a newsletter hiatus (previously titled “The Vine”), the Co-op reintroduced a digital weekly newsletter titled “The Heirloom”. This weekly newsletter focuses on store updates, events, new products, weekly deals, educational information and community news. Not yet signed up for this newsletter? You can do so at the bottom of this page!
40) First Virtual Teaching Kitchen Class (2020)
With the pandemic impacting the Co-op’s ability to hold Teaching Kitchen classes, the shift turned to digital offerings in 2020. Cooking classes both free and paid were offered on a regular basis through Zoom so that we could all still cook together. This also allowed for people outside of the Davis community to join in!
41) Opening of The Green Patch (2020)
With restrictions limiting the ability to have customers dining at the Co-op, the patio space became empty. Seeing an opportunity to liven up the space and provide something new for the community, The Green Patch was born! This space provides seasonally appropriate plants and tools to liven up your garden or yard.
42) First Online Election (2020)
Following the first year of a hybrid model that saw both paper and online ballots available, the Board decided to implement fully online voting in 2020. This allowed for more convenience in the voting process and a move towards the Digital Age for the Co-op!
43) Added Pronouns to Nametags (2021)
In an effort to make a more inclusive Co-op, the staff name tags were updated to include staff members’ pronouns should they choose to express them. This change offered the space and acceptance for people of all gender identities while also giving the option for folks to opt out.
44) Launch of the Owner Rewards Program (2021)
The Co-op would not exist without its Owners and the Owner Rewards Program is a small way to give back to the people whose support keeps the store thriving. While this is separate from the Patronage Refund, it still gives Owners the opportunity to be rewarded for their everyday purchases at the Co-op.
45) New Kids Corner (2021)
In continuing with the mission of engaging kids in our community, the Kids Corner was revamped with a new design that included educational material, new furniture, toys and coloring pages. This space became an ideal place for kiddos to enjoy the Co-op experience too when they are in store.
46) Upgraded Produce Department Displays (2021)
The Produce Department is full of so much vibrant, fresh and beautiful local produce and the Co-op felt it was necessary to better highlight that. These new fixtures allowed for more floor space while simultaneously increasing the capacity for how much produce could be held in the store.
47) Switch to Fully Organic Produce in Deli (2021)
Organic produce is always the preference of the Co-op and its shoppers. While the Deli always made a concerted effort to carry organic produce in the department, it was not until 2021 that the permanent switch was made and committed to. Not only is all of the produce organic, but every effort is made to source locally first as well.
48) First Vote for Change in Elections (2021)
The Co-op’s Round Up at the Register program has long been a way for customers to donate to some deserving local charities chosen by the Co-op. In the 2021 elections, however, power was given to the Owners of the Co-op to vote for four local charities that they wanted represented in the upcoming year as part of the program.
49) New TV Menus Installed in Deli (2022)
In another move that brought the Co-op further into the Digital Age, the Deli had its old paper menus replaced by new TV screens. These screens make it possible to rotate the menu offerings throughout the year and highlight current specials. It also cuts back on the Co-op’s paper use.
50) 50th Anniversary Mural (2022)
Last but not least (on this list at least) is the introduction of the new 50th Anniversary mural. This mural, designed and painted by Co-op Graphic Designer Angelo, commemorates the 50 years that the Co-op has been making community happen. And this mural will live proudly on the wall as a reminder of all of the great memories that the Co-op has brought to the city of Davis!