Last winter, Central Co-op marked 40 years on Capitol Hill. This year as spring approaches, the co-op has a new leader.
Catherine Willis Cleveland has been hired as the cooperative’s new CEO.
“Central Co-op is a model for building sustainable communities and a hub for celebrating healthy food,” Cleveland said in a statement. “When I was growing up my mother coordinated a cooperative produce buying club off our front porch and I have carried those cooperative values with me ever since. I am thrilled to be taking this leadership role at Central Co-op and to help guide this community-grown grocer into the future.”
Cleveland replaces Garland McQueen who announced in January that he intended to return to Georgia to spend time with his family.
Cleveland joins Central Co-op after 13 years at PCC Community Markets.
She tells CHS her career in the grocery business and experience with fresh fruits and vegetable goes way back — she grew up watching her mother operate an organic produce cooperative from the family’s Marin front porch. She is not, however, a fan of carob.
“We’re in a strong place with many veteran employees and a great deal of cumulative intelligence,” Cleveland says of her start at Central Co-op.
The first big step for Central Co-op will be the opening of its Tacoma location this spring. Cleveland says the space at the South Sound store is a version of the co-op with a more spacious layout and ample parking is something they can only dream about on the more densely packed E Madison.
But good things are coming here, too. Cleveland said to watch for news about an overhaul of the E Madison store in coming months.
Last year, CHS reported on the 40th anniversary for the co-op which got its start on 12th Ave and has grown to be a major employer on the Hill paying above the mark wages. Its average wage of $21.68/hour is 27% higher than the statewide average for grocery stores, the co-op says. A study from the co-op also showed that it generates an additional $8 million in Washington’s local economy compared to a conventional grocery chain store.
Central Co-op is located at 1600 E Madison. You can learn more at centralcoop.coop.
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