New manager bringing vibrancy to Rainbow Food Co-op

New manager Helena Roe of Rainbow Food Co-op in Faribault, MN.
Helena Roe and Marilyn Palm
Helena Roe and Marilyn Palm

There is a new face at Blue Earth's Rainbow Food Co-op. Her name is Helena (Ha-lay-nah) Roe. This young, energized food enthusiast is the new face of the local co-op.

The co-op, which has been an establishment in the city since 1979, has recently hired a new store manager who hopes to bring a new vibrancy to the already colorful food goods store.

Roe, who is taking over for retiring store manager Marilyn Palm, recently started her new position on Feb. 25. She lives in Fairmont, but is originally from Mankato and says she has always loved food, and truly appreciates the culture behind a food co-op.

"I love food co-ops," she says. "I worked at the St. Peter Food Co-op for a while. They are a great example of what being part of a co-op can do for an entire community."

Roe loves food, period. She learned to cook from her grandmother and continually tries new recipes and says her favorite thing to cook is comfort food.

"Lasagna, hot dishes, anything that makes you think of home and you leave the table feeling satisfied, that's what I love making for my friends and family," says Roe.

The new manager says she is currently working directly with Palm, who has been store manager since 1983, on getting the basics down for her position.

However, once Roe is more comfortable in her position, she hopes to help bring the vibrancy of the co-op back to what it was a few decades ago.

"I would love to start getting our younger members of the community involved in the co-op," says Roe. "I think it is pivotal for the survival of Rainbow Food Co-op. With that larger support base, we would be able to do things like have monthly cooking and food prep classes, have weekly recipes, and other engaging activities for co-op members, and the public, to enjoy."

The store's regular hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Roe says she is looking forward to meeting as many new faces as possible her first few weeks at the store.

Roe also wants to expand the international food base at some point in the store and hopes to bring that international flair to the Blue Earth community, as well.

"If you look at all of the larger cities around us, they are bringing in multi-cultural foods to their restaurant and food industries. This is a new age of multicultural cuisine, and I hope to ignite that inspiration here, too. I could talk about food for the rest of my life. This is a dream job for me."

In her spare time, Roe enjoys being involved in local Rendezvous, like the Big Island Rendezvous in Albert Lea. She loves getting dressed in full regalia and returning to a different time.

The new store manager also has culinary experience in her background and hopes this passion for food and flavor will only ignite people's curiosity to check out the store and, hopefully, become co-op members.

"I want to get to know the community. I want this store to become everybody's store it already is. That's what a co-op is all about," she says. "I also hope to partner with other local businesses and have more inclusive community connections, then make those connections reach further out. I am really excited about the potential here."

Roe and Palm both agree that a large part of building up the Rainbow Food Co-op includes building the co-op member (or shareholder) base. Shareholders can place special orders, and get special discounts on those orders, and also have voting privileges when the co-op's board meets.

Members of the current board include Maria Lindberg, Janet Gaylord, Joe Fering, Linda Wells, Cindy Bly, and Dottie Lawson.

According to Roe and Palm, shareholders are only required to pay $10 worth of shares, each share going for $5 a piece, to become a lifetime co-op member. And if any members of the public are interested, they had better act soon before membership fees are raised, which is a possibility for the co-op.

"We need shareholders," says Roe. "This co-op has that tremendous potential, we just need the man- power behind it. A co-op is meant to be a more personalized experience than your big chain grocery stores. The more the community puts into the co-op, the more they get out of it."

The Rainbow Food Co-op team also hopes to have a stronger social media presence, as well. They currently have a Facebook page, which can be found when you search Rainbow Food Co-op, and hope to expand their social media presence on other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

Until then, Roe says she is just enjoying learning from one of the best, Palm, and getting the ropes down until she is ready to take off on her own.

Faribault County Register, March 3, 2019

By Katie Mullaly 

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