Rhonda Silence

Getting to know the new Whole Foods Co-op Manager Ahren Grunow

The Cook County Whole Foods Co-op has had a change of leadership. Longtime manager Jennifer Stoltz retired in November and the co-op welcomed Ahren Grunow as the new manager Nov. 15.

Ahren took an interesting path, starting at REI, the outdoor gear store that is a cooperative. Ahren said he enjoyed the cooperative model and when he sought work closer to where he lived at the time, he looked at different co-ops. He took a job at Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville and worked in the meat department, eventually becoming a journeyman butcher. That store supplied wholesale meat to co-ops around Minnesota, which expanded his knowledge of co-ops in the region.

Mississippi Market in St. Paul was the next step in his co-op career. Ahren helped set up the meat market there. He eventually managed not just the meat department, but all of the divisions in three Mississippi Markets in the Twin Cities. He said he learned a lot and appreciates those who mentored him along the way.

WTIP asked Ahren, why the move to Cook County? He said he and his wife were frequent visitors to the North Shore and he always thought of managing the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op in Grand Marais as a “dream job.” So, when the position became available, he applied and was thrilled to get the position.

He has learned a lot in his short time at the co-op, such as the fact that the parking lot periodically floods. He is also getting to know where items are so he can help shoppers, but he said there are a lot of “hidden gems” in the store.

Ahren doesn’t foresee making any major changes but would like to expand the co-op’s selection of locally produced items.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence visited with Ahren Grunow at the co-op to learn more about his background and co-op philosophy. Here’s their conversation.