Why I Shop at the Co-op #11

June 10, 2022

Grace Poole and her family are wild about the Co-op.

Please tell us a bit about yourselves.

We are both Virginia natives. I grew up in downtown Fredericksburg. Colin grew up in Colonial Beach. He is an electrical engineer and he works at Dahlgren. I am an esthetician – helping people with skin care. I work part time at Healthy Beginnings Wellness and Esthetics and am starting my own practice. We first met in downtown Fredericksburg at a dive bar on Caroline Street. We got married in 2015 and have three wild and beautiful children. 

When did you first hear about the Co-op?

One of our neighbors had a Co-op yard sign, but I never really knew what the Co-op was. I thought it was probably a CSA and with our kids being so young, we didn’t think that would be practical for our family. I learned what the Co-op really was just a few months before it opened. I was sitting on my neighbor’s porch on Forbes Street when Lonnie Williams, a member of the Co-op’s Board of Directors, came up and told us about the Co-op. She was there to help prepare for the Co-op’s annual 5K that was to begin on Forbes Street.  Lonnie was so clear and passionate about the Co-op that her passion was contagious. I told my husband about the Co-op that night and the month before the Co-op opened, we decided to join. When the Co-op opened, it was even better that I expected. The Co-op is a little slice of heaven – right here in Fredericksburg!

What are your favorite products at the Co-op?

Number one is the chicken curry salad. My one-and-a-half-year-old son loves it. Every year our family sends Valentine’s Day cards that include messages about things that the kids enjoy and we told everyone about how he LOVES the Co-op’s chicken curry salad. Our kids enjoy the apples and somehow I believe they taste sweeter because they’re local. I am a fanatic for the bowls at the Co-op. They are well priced and healthy. It’s difficult for me to go anywhere else for prepared food. If you grab a salad at a restaurant, you are talking about $13 or more, and you don’t get the variety of healthy ingredients that you get in a bowl at the Co-op. Another benefit of the bowls is that they are made quickly. I’ve never had to wait long for my order. Other favorites include the corn chips at the Co-op and the hummus made at the Co-op is one of Colin’s favorites. We eat a lot of hummus at our house.

What do you love most about the Co-op?

I find the Co-op very peaceful. It’s not hectic and crowded like some other places. And it’s always so clean. We love that when you shop at the Co-op you know that your money is going to your community. It’s not going to support huge corporations. Shopping at the Co-op is like exploring Virginia. I didn’t know we had so many local farms and producers here or so many Virginia beers and wines.

I came here on Saturday and bought molasses barbeque sauce made by a local family from Triangle, Virginia. The husband, wife and their son were here at the Co-op. The sauce is absolutely delicious. We had a chance to meet them. They were so nice. It was fantastic being able to talk directly with the people who made this sauce and get their suggestions. Before talking with them, I would never have put barbeque sauce on my dumplings, but they suggested that and it was delicious. They also suggested to put it on veggie sandwiches and on avocado toast, so now we do both. That discussion really helped me be more creative with the use of their product. At the Co-op you can meet some of the people who make the products on the shelves. And you can see that the money you spend is going into the pockets of these local producers. That’s a huge difference – especially for Colin who focuses on the community aspect of the Co-op.

As a mom, I like the health and the convenience of the Co-op. One example is Mo’s soups. That’s our version of fast food now. Instead of ordering pizza or getting takeout, I just swing by and grab a Mo’s soup. Dinner done. I love that the Co-op sells products like that. You can also buy great pre-made sandwiches at the Co-op. They’re healthy, fresh, the same price as a McDonald’s combo, and faster than going through the drive thru. As a family of five we have to watch our budget. On the days that are just crazy, I can still stay in budget and pick something healthy. Feeding the kids healthy food is important to us.

Have you ever made a suggestion to the Co-op and what was it?

I haven’t made any product suggestions. I’m sure we will think of something. One suggestion I have is for there to be a children’s story time at the Co-op. It could start at 10:30 or 11:00 AM – then we could grab lunch and head home for nap. I love that the Co-op is a community hub. I like how local musicians play there a few times each month. It makes me happy, even if I don’t have time to stop and enjoy a whole performance. The Co-op having gift cards has been great. It makes gift giving easy. You know you’re giving them something that they will use because everyone can find something they like. 

What advice would you have for someone thinking about checking out the Co-op?

You don’t have to be an owner to shop at the Co-op. Check it out. Grab a bowl, a smoothie or a kombucha. Just walk around and see how many products are from people in or close to Fredericksburg. I’m an owner but I still think of it as a membership like at a gym. I haven’t made the mindset shift yet to think of myself as an owner of this community-owned grocery store. Our kids love the Co-op and the little one calls all grocery stores co-ops.