If you’ve recently shopped at the Kirkwood store, in the alley at 419 East Kirkwood, you may have seen a new face behind the counter and throughout the store. Since October, Heather Beery has been serving as the store coordinator. A Bloomingfoods member since 2000, Heather was drawn to the position because of her interest in agricultural sustainability and good food.
Laura Gleason sat down with Heather at the end of the lunch rush one day and asked some questions about her new job.
Laura: Tell us about your professional background.
Heather: I have about 15 years in human services—social work—and then I was an information architect at IU. From there I was promoted to assistant director of the interactive team of creative services at IU Communications. I wanted a change, and have been really interested in food issues for a long time. I wanted to be doing something that I felt was really tangibly improving peoples’ lives, and I think Bloomingfoods does that.
Laura: What skills are you bringing to the job?
Heather: I have a fairly extensive managerial background, and I have a lot of people skills from having a human services and social work background, and organizational skills. A lot of overarching things that combined with a big interest in this area.
Laura: What is your favorite part of the job so far?
Heather: Working with the customers. Somewhere in my late 30s I decided I was actually an extrovert—after thinking I was an introvert for many, many years.
Laura: What else do you enjoy?
Heather: I like learning new things and I like change a lot, so it’s just been fun learning lots of new stuff. It’s also been really fun to have food knowledge and be able to make some decisions about purchases, things we’re going to bring in the store or things we might not carry anymore based on what our customers want—because it’s a cooperative—but also being able to make recommendations based on what I know about healthy food.
Laura: Have you discovered any products since starting this job that you especially like?
Heather: I don’t think I’d ever had one of the Synergy Kombuchas before—those are really good!
Laura: The Kirkwood store has seen a lot of changes over the years. Who are the clientele, and how do you meet their needs?
Heather: This store really caters to students, faculty, staff, and local businesses, and it’s a lot of grab n’ go. Not a lot of people come to this store to do their weekly grocery shopping. We’re trying to do more with the deli, some new deli sandwiches, and we’re trying to get more products in that are more “walkable”: cut fruit, cut vegetables, things people can eat while they’re walking or at their desk.
Laura: Is there anything you would like to see improved?
Heather: A lot of people don’t realize that there is an upstairs and that they’re allowed to come upstairs, or that there’s a grocery room—so we will be working on improving our signs.
Laura: What are your hopes for the future of the downtown store?
Heather: Mostly I just want this store to be successful in general—it was the first store and I think it’s really important to a lot of members that the store does well.
When she’s not at Bloomingfoods, Heather keeps busy parenting her two teenage daughters, reading, doing yoga, and learning about sustainability issues. She said that when former clients come into Bloomingfoods, they often remark at how energized and happy she looks. “It’s been a great change,” she said.