Our History

If the Yelm Food Cooperative were a children’s story, it would probably be The Little Engine That Could.  This, after all, is an organization that opened in 2007 – with just $26,000. “That’s a very small amount to start any retail, let alone a grocery store that has a lot of inventory and equipment,” say current General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz. “Most will start with ten times that amount before they get a brick and mortar location.”

“We were insane,”

Manager Debbie Burgan puts it more bluntly: “We were insane,” she says. “I was sent to three different seminars to find out what you needed to start a co-op. Every single one said you needed a minimum of $1 million.”

It all started in 2005 with Laura Losada, a Yelm resident who had a vision of a local store with organic, natural and local ingredients. Others believed in her vision and soon, according to volunteer Robyn Hawk, “A very small handful of people somehow got another small handful of people to get a fair amount of money so that they could start this co-op.” Everyone involved volunteered hundreds of hours, raising money, learning about the ins and outs of running a co-op and applying for grants. In addition, several members of the leadership team at the Olympia Co-op contributed guidance and expertise for nearly a year.

The store opened its doors in April, 2007 in a small commercial building in Yelm’s Frontier Village, where anyone attempting to navigate an aisle would literally rub elbows with someone coming the opposite direction.  “It was important to open a storefront in order to begin building a history and reputation within this community,” says Rintz.

But in 2012, the store moved to its current – and much larger – location at 308 Yelm Ave., which it shares with local landmark Gordon’s Garden Center. “Moving here was really important,” says Manager Jutta Dewell, who has been with the store since its inception. “This location is much better equipped to handle a higher volume of sales, in terms of space and atmosphere.”

Originally, the co-op was a member-owned corporation. In 2012, the board of directors asked the membership to vote on becoming a non-profit community service organization with a focus on education and food. The idea was a hit; 96% of the members who voted favored the new vision.

As they’ve grown, the co-op staff have surveyed its customers, analyzed buying patterns, and adjusted accordingly. “We offer products that are hard to find in the Yelm area,” says Rintz, “non-GMO, organic, and local items. Our success has proven that the demand from the consumer is large enough to support the store.”

However,  there were still more challenges for the store.  After 4 1/2 years as a non-profit under the Yelm Cooperative umbrella, the IRS made a determination that Yelm Food Co-op was in fact a for-profit company and would have to be separated from Yelm Cooperative\Yelm Farmers’ Market operating as non-profit.  This was an unexpected upset for all.  Yelm Cooperative, the parent company decided to change their name to Bounty For Families and along with the Yelm Farmers’ Market as their subsidiary and go their “non-profit” way.  

On January 1, 2017, Yelm Food Cooperative went back to its original equity based company status.  The original equity members who had paid equity up until 2012, before the company went non-profit, were re-established as equity members and we began accepting equity memberships again.  

We continue to operate as an organic and natural food market offering our customers and members the best quality we can.

Supporting Our Local Producers

Our New Microwave Oven

Here are some of our Yelm Food Co-op yummy snacks from San Francisco Street Bakery and The Bread Peddlar that can be heated up in our new Microwave Oven. We bought it for our members who often ask for a way to heat up the food they purchase. We will have more wraps...

Caulipower Pappardelle

We have some great Caulipower products in the store, so we thought we’d try some of their new pasta. Rather than bring in a fettuccine, we thought we’d try their Pappardelle as it’s a bit more unusual. Made with cauliflower in Italy, it’s high in fiber and you will...

Jovial Organic Gluten Free Spaghetti

We love that Jovial’s Gluten Free Spaghetti is Organic, Award Winning for taste and texture, Artisan Crafted in Italy, and pressed with Bronze Dies.

Pasta Prima Organic Butternut Squash Ravioli

We found this Pasta Prima Organic Butternut Squash Ravioli. Let us know if you like it. You’ll find it in the chiller next to the Cucina Fresca Mushroom Ravioli and the Spinach Ricotta Ravioli.

C60 Star in Black Seed Oil

C60 Star now comes in Black Seed Oil. It joins their Avocado, Olive and Sunflower Oils.

A German Valentines

It’s going to be a German Valentines! Marzipan Gift Boxes and several choices of Cherries in Kirsch and Brandy liquor.

Manner Hazelnut Wafers

The Dominoes, Pfeffernüsse and  Gingerbreads all sold out so we brought in more plus the new Manner Hazelnut Wafers

Our German selection gets bigger.

Our German selection is getting bigger. Here are some much loved savory items. Semmel Knodel Wheat Dumplings, Spaetzle Egg Noodles, Meica Pork Frankfurters and Wieners, Seitenbacher Vegetable Broth, Landsberg White Asparagus and Surig Concentrated Vinegar.

Reed’s Sweet Wines from Tacoma

REED’S Sweet Wines are made in Tacoma with fruit from their orchards.

White Wines from PIETRAMALA and KRASNO

**PIETRAMALA comes from the hills of Torgiano in the heart of Umbria, Italy. The straw yellow color, the pleasant and persistent olfactory re- turns, the herbaceous notes and slightly citrus in the taste, make Pietramala a faithful witness of the atmosphere and nature...

Please follow the COVID-19 policies in the store. Learn more on our COVID-19 page.