Store Team Leader: Otto Leuschel
Why Bellingham? “I think people in Bellingham care about good food. There’s a real strong ethic of environmental stewardship and businesses conducting themselves responsibly, and we aim to meet that standard as well.”
What is your favorite shop downtown? Why? “Taco Lobo. When we had a temporary office above The Daisy Café, we ate there a lot. They have authentic food that is freshly prepared and very friendly service. I still get my hair cut at Jake’s next door too. I’m a creature of habit, so once I find something I like I keep going back!”
A veteran of the grocer game, Otto Leuschel has been serving communities for over 17 years. Back in 1991 he was hired on by one of the first nine Whole Foods stores in Texas. Now, with more than 450 stores in operation, Otto has worked everywhere from San Francisco to London.
After serving as Vice President of Operations in the Northeast region, he decided to take a leave of absence. “I had hit my midlife crisis,” he joked. In 2008, he found an opportunity to downshift and open his own place in the Hudson Valley area of New York, where Otto’s Market ran for seven successful years.
He returned back to his Pacific Northwest roots to take care of his mother, and jumped back on board with the business. Otto had no trouble reuniting with a company that he says has always supported its employees first.
“It’s certainly changed and evolved as we’ve grown from nine to 450 stores, but the people aspect and company culture has remained the same,” he said. “It’s a sustainable place to build a career.”
Otto says that Whole Foods is on the forefront of good, high quality food. Compared to traditional grocery stores, where the “natural foods” section is growing but just a part, Whole Foods prides itself on a complete devotion to nutritious choices without all the unnecessary additives. In their entire store, none of their products have artificial colorings or flavorings that many processed foods contain.
While most grocery stores research areas for suitable income demographics, Whole Foods prioritizes education. In college towns and an environmentally conscious one like Bellingham, they’ve found great success in serving populations that are sustainably minded. Otto says part of their mission is to be involved as “community citizens”.
“We want people spending their dollars in our store so that we can give back to the community we operate in,” he said.
Otto knows firsthand the value of businesses and communities working together to build a thriving economy, after living in places where the downtown centers have been spiritless and without activity.
“Bellingham has a vibrant downtown [area], we want to support it being a great place for people to go,” he said. Otto and his team are happy to support Downtown Sounds and get people outside to support local events that boost community development.
Visit 1030 Lakeway Drive for any of your eco-minded grocery needs!
Today's post was written by Marketing Intern Ashley Conradi.