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Doing Good By Doing Good Business
Scott Roseman wasn’t out to start an organic revolution or reinvent natural food stores when he decided to buy the Neighborhood Food Co-op. It was the early days and the concept of stores that sold only natural and organic foods was just taking hold. As an employee-member, Scott knew that the co-op, while loved, was floundering. His goal was to save it for the sake of the community and to create a model business.
Letting the co-op members repurchase their shares at a generous discount was the foundation to start something great. He then signed a purchase agreement, re-opening the 3,000-square-foot Westside Community Market on October 20, 1985. From the beginning, Scott insisted on quality and began developing close relationships with local farms, dairies and artisanal producers whose high standards matched his.
Within five years, the store had outgrown the space on Ingalls Street and in May 1990, Westside Community Market closed. Three days later, Scott and his trusty General Manager Rex Stewart, opened the doors to New Leaf Community Markets on Mission Street. People shopped at New Leaf because the food was delicious, the vibe upbeat and they could trust us. We started programs that empowered our customers, supported local non-profits and inspired employees — all which continue to move our mission forward.
In November 2013, New Leaf became the first grocer in California to be a Certified B Corporation.
Since we opened the doors of our first store, we’ve placed as much value on taking care of our employees, our community and our environment as we have on growing the business. To ensure that we stay true to our founding values, New Leaf wanted to establish an ongoing program that would overlook how well we continue to implement our values. We realized that we aligned with the B Corp movement, and that by joining this movement we could not only validate what we do, but join a community of like-minded businesses.
B Corp certification is to sustainable business what LEED certification is to green building or Fair Trade certification is to coffee. Today, there is a growing number of Certified B Corps from 27 countries and 60 industries working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business.
In 2002, New Leaf became the first retail partner with FishWise and launched a sustainable seafood labeling program.
FishWise is a non-profit marine conservation organization that improves the health of ocean ecosystems through environmentally responsible business practices. Essentially they are scientists and business strategists that provide some of the best educational tools to businesses like New Leaf. Back in 2002, FishWise was looking at the health of oceans and at that time they were really in peril with overfishing and heavy pollution. They had the idea of bringing together the science from our backyard Monterey Bay Aquarium and the ethics of New Leaf to help educate consumers. Both sides took a leap of faith and began to work together on how to bring this concept to New Leaf customers.
New Leaf was the first retail partner for FishWise’s color-coded sustainability program. Our customers responded so positively that New Leaf eventually stopped carrying red-coded seafood all together. FishWise’s partnership with New Leaf proved their credibility, and based on New Leaf’s leadership, FishWise now works with more than 20 grocers, a total of 4,000 stores who sell more than 100 million pounds of seafood. What started as an idea, has grown to make a major impact on the world’s oceans.
Route 1 Farms
Since our very first store opened, Route 1 has had a spot in our produce department. Their warehouse was actually right next door and their farm is within a mile from our Westside Santa Cruz store. Jeff Larkey and his crew have 65 acres of beautiful farmland and provide us predominately with organic leafy greens — spinach, chard and especially kale. Route 1’s kale is delivered twice a week to stock not only the produce section, but the copious amounts of Coastal Kale Salad that New Leaf produces fresh every day.
What else is cool besides their kale? Instead of single use waxed produce boxes, Route 1 uses RPCs (reusable plastic crates) for deliveries to New Leaf stores. These crates can be returned, sanitized and used over and over again for deliveries. Route 1 is one of the pioneering organic farms of the central coast, and has been one of our farm partners since the beginning. We’re lucky to have Route 1’s bounty year round.
Second Harvest and New Leaf have been partnering to fight hunger in the community for over twenty years. To date New Leaf has raised and donated over half a million healthy meals for neighbors who have nowhere else to turn. It’s a very deep and profound relationship that has had a huge impact on building a healthy and thriving community. A few ways New Leaf donates every year is through Community Days, Smart Chicken’s Smart Giving program, and food drives at the store registers through the holiday season. These programs enable us to support the entire network of food programs at Second Harvest that are feeding over 17,000 families a month. Our partnership plants the seeds for creating a brighter future for the next generation through good nutrition.
Homeless Garden Project
The Homeless Garden Project provides job training, transitional employment and support services to people who are homeless. Their education and volunteer programs blend formal, experiential and service-learning and take place in their beautiful 3-acre organic farm. New Leaf and the Homeless Garden Project have been community partners for over 16 years. The central feature of our relationship is with the Envirotoken program. Year after year, our customers have voted them as a 10¢ token recipient. New Leaf has donated over $100,000 to the organization. For every dollar that’s invested in transitional jobs, 80 cents of it goes back to our community. New Leaf gives the project incredible exposure and supports it ongoing success.
OBI Probiotic Soda
Ben Goodwin, the founder of Obi Probiotic Soda, sought to create something for the people who prioritize health and experience. Sounds just like New Leaf! New Leaf was the first store to carry Santa Cruz-based Obi Soda, and now Obi has hundreds of accounts on both coasts. New Leaf supported Ben from the beginning and helped establish a great product worth sharing.
Mission Hill Creamery
Mission Hill Creamery handcrafts ice cream from the finest, freshest, local organic ingredients. Ice cream-obsessed chef and owner Dave Kumec established Mission Hill Creamery five years ago in Santa Cruz. New Leaf was one of the first to have his pints on the shelf. Continuing to grow our local partnerships, we launched our exclusive “Dirty 30” 30th Anniversary flavor with Mission Hill — mixing in Newman-O’s chocolate crème-filled cookies and cake from Black China Bakery. What a sweet relationship!
The roots of New Leaf Community Markets was in the neighborhood food coop. When I took ownership of the store, I was trying to create a community-based business.
One of the first things I did was create a program where we’d give 10% of profits back to our community and a profit sharing program where we gave back to our employees. It’s something that I believed wholeheartedly then and still do to this day. I thought the store could be a different kind of business. A business that could be a model of how to do business going into the future. My thinking was, if the company was successful it would share that success with its employees and its community. This is something that’s always made us different right from the beginning — the relationships we built with our vendor community and the larger community as a whole.
We looked at organizations that we could donate our money to that really made a difference like the Homeless Garden Project. These organizations are doing great work and making a real difference in our community and we wanted to do what we could to support them and their efforts. We built our business around local connections. Route 1 Farms and Swanton Berry Farms (also a B Corp!), are local farmers that we began our business with, and who made us who we are today.
We are still what we’ve always been about. We are still a company that has really stayed true to our roots — giving back to the community, focusing on great customer service and taking care of our employees. We’ve done that for the last 30 years, and we’ll continue to do that for the next 30 years. It’s in our DNA, and we’ve got great people to carry on that tradition.