Tanka Spotlight: Littleton Food Co-op

August 31, 2011

Tanka Spotlight: Littleton Food Co-op
Since our launch in October 2007, we have been privileged to work with outstanding retail partners. These folks are so passionate about their businesses and their customers we decided we needed to share their unique stories. If you'd like to be featured, or if you'd like to nominate a Tanka retailer for a story, please contact Jenice Johnson at jenicejohnson@tankabar.com.

RETAILER: Littleton Food Co-op

LOCATION: 43 Bethlehem Road, Littleton, NH 03561

About Littleton Co-op

In early 2006, Co-op President Jeffrey Wheeler and Vice President Michael Clafin held an informational meeting to which over 300 people from the Littleton region attended. The Littleton Food Cooperative was opened in May 2009 and strives to serve the North Country of New Hampshire and Northeast Kingdom of Vermont by providing a broad range of high-quality food products offered at a fair price with outstanding service.

Tanka Bar: What makes your store special or stand out from other shops?

Littleton Food Co-op: The Co-op exists to serve its members, not to make a profit for a large corporation. While membership is not required to shop at our store, our member-owners help govern the Co-op by electing our Board of Directors annually and contributing in other ways -- from suggesting items for the store to serving as volunteers on Co-op committees. Our members also help us maintain the Co-op's mission of supporting local growers and producers, encouraging healthy life choices, and promoting environmental sustainability locally.

We also make an effort to focus on our community with our Partner of the Month program where we collaborate with another local non-profit group each month to help raise funding and awareness. Through the program, each Co-op partner receives all donations collected at our checkout for its designated month.

Another one of the Co-op principles is to help educate our consumers, and we do so through many classes, demos and samplings that all shoppers are invited and encouraged to attend.

TB: What are some valuable lessons you learned starting and/or managing your business?

LFC: We're a hybrid store, which means we carry conventional as well as natural and organic products. We underestimated our customers demand for the natural and organic product lines, and have been evolving steadily towards the healthier lines of foods.

TB: Were there any hurdles starting your store? If so, what were they?

LFC: Building a store from scratch has dozens of hurdles. One was educating the public about what exactly a food co-op is. Another was educating our newly hired staff about the different and unique products sold at a co-op. There are no co-ops within 50 miles of Littleton, so there were many misconceptions about our store. Developing relationships with vendors, farmers, suppliers and brokers was and is a challenge here in the North Country.

TB: Tell me something interesting or fun about your community.

LFC: Nestled in the shadow of the New Hampshire's majestic White Mountains, Littleton is the economic and recreational hub of the North Country. This picturesque New England gem offers something for everyone -- fine dining and art galleries, unique shops and historic buildings, and a range of outdoor activities for all seasons.

The peaceful Riverwalk path meanders along the Ammonoosuc River, across a covered bridge and past many historic Littleton landmarks including the still-operating Littleton Grist Mill. Across Main Street dances a bronze statue of Pollyanna -- that icon of gladness whose author, Eleanor Porter, called Littleton home.

TB: What are some things customers have said that they like about your store?

"A magnificent selection of local produce and goods."

"The variety and quality of the products are excellent! Thank you!"

"I love shopping at the Co-op. Everyone is very friendly and knowledgeable. It's more like visiting your corner store than a supermarket."

"I like the atmosphere. I have requested a few items, and they always appear by the time I make my next trip.

TB: What do your customers think about Tanka Bars?

We brought in Tanka Bars at a customer's request and, based upon the sales of that first case, we decided to carry it as a regular item. We now offer both varieties [spicy pepper blend and traditional] of bars, sticks and nuggets [Tanka Bites]. The Tanka products have a small but loyal following here; we can always count on selling through a case quickly. So far, all the feedback we have had from customers regarding Tanka Bars has been positive. It is truly a unique item amongst the rest!

For more information: Littleton Food Co-op and check our their Facebook page.

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