PCC history | PCC Natural Markets

PCC history

PCC's story is one of evolution, starting as a food-buying club for 15 families in 1953 and now operating as the largest natural foods retail cooperative in the country. Needless to say, our passion for delicious food and our commitment to community go way back. Here's a timeline marking some of the more important milestones in our history.


John Affolter starts a food buying club in Seattle, Wash. in which 15 families participate. The combined buying power of member households reduces the cost of food. The club moves with the Affolter family to Renton, Wash. in 1957 where it’s known as the May Valley Food Club.


May Valley Food Club members transform their club into a consumer cooperative called Puget Consumers Co-op, or PCC. The cooperative operates on a rebate structure, with each family purchasing $50 in certificates as an investment in a future storefront. All co-op purchases are conducted through "The Depot," the Affolter's home. Product inventory is maintained at The Depot and a network of delivery and pick-up stations are set up at the homes of individual club members.

The cooperative elects a board of trustees, which meets monthly, and members pay dues biannually. A monthly newsletter is started — the beginning of what is now PCC Sound Consumer. By year-end, sales top $5,000.


PCC opens its first storefront in Seattle's Madrona neighborhood, supported by a membership of 340 households. The rebate system ends and co-op operating expenses are funded by regular dues; each household pays dues proportional to household size. By year-end, sales reach $17,000.

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PCC moves from the Madrona storefront to Seattle's University District. A split begins to occur between members who want PCC to focus on offering natural foods and those whose primary interest in the co-op is saving money.


PCC expands its product line with the introduction of mercantile items. Randy Lee is hired as PCC's assistant manager and soon becomes store manager.


The member dues system is replaced by one of structured markup. Some members, who feel PCC is getting too big, withdraw their certificates and form the Capitol Hill Co-op in Seattle.

A number of cooperative ventures are created to form a supportive network for farm produce. Cooperating Community, an organization set up by loans from PCC, is formed and comprised of businesses that do everything from retailing produce and dry goods to providing day care and health care services.


Staff pushes for bylaw changes including: allowing up to four staff to serve on the board of trustees; ensuring all staff become co-op members automatically, and ensuring all workers receive equal pay.

Staff meetings become more formal. Workers take on some management responsibilities, marking the beginning of worker management of the co-op, which eventually develops into democratic management.

common ground


PCC member Darlyn Rundberg initiates the now widespread Seattle P-Patch community garden space program, with help from PCC. The Phinney Street Co-op is started by some PCC members, with financial support from PCC.


A second location is needed to relieve overcrowding at PCC. The PCC Mercantile is opened across the street, accommodating non-food and packaging departments, to free up space. PCC's membership reaches 3,466, and annual sales top $1 million.


The co-op moves to a new location in Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood. The new store attracts new members and prompts explosive growth, more than doubling from the previous year, topping $2 million.


Sunday store hours are introduced to accommodate customer growth. PCC sales top $3 million.



PCC purchases Co-op East in Kirkland, Wash. and it becomes PCC's second location. The transition from one store to a multi-store organization begins with the centralization of some functions. The PCC board of trustees encourages the formation of corporate committees, with board, staff and members. Membership triples from just three years ago, to 11,200.

The Central Co-op in Seattle opens with financial support from PCC. It replaces the Capital Hill Co-op, which closed in 1976.


The first demographic survey of PCC customers is conducted, for both stores. Results indicate that consumers are traveling great distances to shop at PCC because they can't find the quality and selection of products anywhere else. The board of trustees and staff realize that more stores are needed. Membership at the Ravenna store is closed to new members, due to overcrowding.


The pricing concept of marking everything up the same percentage is changed to the current variable margin pricing, allowing nonessentials to be marked up so that basic food can be marked up less and sold for less.

The Greenlake store opens in Seattle, and the business office is moved to the new store from Ravenna. The Kirkland PCC experiences continuing financial losses. A board-commissioned study by Alaska Consulting indicates that both the physical store and the management structure need revamping.


Difficulties at the Kirkland location lead the board to suspend democratic management until the situation improves. There is a movement toward unionization at the Kirkland and Greenlake stores.

The board of trustees develops a job description for a general manager position. The articles of incorporation are amended.

The Kirkland store is remodeled based on suggestions from the Alaska Consulting study. Ravenna store membership is reopened.


PCC's first general manager is hired. More business office jobs are developed. PCC’s board of trustees makes major bylaw amendments including having only two staff members on the board and establishing new board compensation. The Ravenna store is remodeled.


Foodworks!, a nutrition and health education program, (now called PCC Cooks) is founded.

PCC negotiates its first contract with Retail Clerks 1105, representing Kirkland, Greenlake and office staff. Forums and surveys are conducted on PCC expansion and how it should be addressed. The board decides to pursue a course of continued cautious growth.


Lyle Whiteman is hired as general manager. The Ravenna store moves to join the Greenlake and Kirkland PCCs in union representation. Pacific Rim, PCC's major natural foods wholesaler, declares bankruptcy. The PCC business office moves to the University District. Sales at year-end top $10 million.


The Seward Park PCC opens. NutraSource, a new natural foods wholesaler, is established to help supply PCC. A Meat Shop, Inc. service counter is opened at the Ravenna store. A union contract for store staff is renegotiated; office staff decertifies from union membership.

view Ridge


The View Ridge PCC store opens in Seattle.


The employment contract with Ravenna is renegotiated, as that location becomes a part of the union. A remodel begins on the Kirkland store. Computer systems are brought in-house; accounting is computerized entirely for the first time.


The West Seattle store opens. Cash for the Hungry (now known as the PCC Food Bank Program) is started. The Kirkland remodel is completed and a remodel of the Greenlake store begins. The PCC office moves to its location on Roosevelt Way, in the University District.


PCC purchases the Meat Shop, Inc., and all meat department workers become PCC staff. A contract is negotiated with UFCW Local 81 representing meat cutters and wrappers. The board appoints four staff as a management team in his place and begins searching for a new general manager. The labor contract with Local 1105 is renegotiated. Lyle Whiteman leaves.


The South Everett PCC opens. Jeff Voltz is hired as general manager.


PCC's Fremont store opens in December. A full-service deli is added to the Ravenna store. An operations coordinator position is created to supervise store coordinators. All PCC locations begin composting programs.


The Greenlake Market is purchased, with plans to close the current Greenlake PCC in 1996. The South Everett store is closed.



The new Greenlake PCC opens. A new price structure, eliminating the non-member markup is introduced.


The co-op starts doing business as PCC Natural Markets,. PCC board of trustees transitions to the Carver model of policy governance.


The Issaquah PCC is opened in Issaquah, Wash. PCC founds the PCC Farmland Fund (now known as PCC Farmland Trust, an independent 501 c3,).


Tracy Wolpert is hired as chief operations officer. Jeff Voltz leaves the co-op, and the board appoints Randy Lee and Tracy Wolpert as co-CEOs.



The struggling Ravenna store closes. The Board names Tracy Wolpert CEO. PCC joins National Cooperative Grocers (NCG). Goldie Caughlan is appointed to serve a five-year term on the National Organic Standards Board.


High volume of sales at the Fremont PCC prompts plans to move to a larger location. PCC sales top $75 million, supported by more than 35,000 member households.

Fremont store


PCC Natural Markets adopts a new logo. The new Fremont store opens offering more space and parking. PCC’s website is redesigned and site visits increase significantly.


PCC continues to invest in its stores with a significant remodel of the View Ridge location and upgrades to the Greenlake and Kirkland stores. A more flexible member benefit program is implemented. The PCC Kid Picks Program is started.


The Redmond PCC opens in Redmond, Wash. The next year it will earn the distinction of being the first grocery store in the nation to be LEED Gold Certified. PCC sales top $100 million.


PCC eliminates plastic shopping bags from all stores. Products that contain rBGH, added trans fat and high-fructose corn syrup are removed from store shelves.

edmonds store


The Edmonds PCC opens in Edmonds, Wash. The store is constructed with enough Green building features to earn dual certification: LEED Platinum and Salmon-Safe. Membership tops 44,000 households.


The PCC Cooks program wins the Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in the Avocational Cooking Schools category.


PCC becomes the first retailer in the country to be "gluten-free endorsed" by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG). PCC makes a substantial commitment to the Non-GMO Project in support of the nonprofit, multi-stakeholder organization’s efforts to preserve and build sources of verified non-GMO product choices.


PCC is honored with the "Leadership in Action" award by The Organic Center, for leadership in non-GMO food policy. The Edmonds store undergoes an extensive expansion of its commissary facility and becomes the site of the first PCC-hosted electric vehicle charging station.


PCC leads the effort to ensure Washington State Initiative 522 (mandatory labeling of GMOs) would qualify for the November 2013 ballot. PCC adopts a fair labor standard for chocolate, selling chocolate bars, confections and cocoa powders only from vendors that provide assurance that child slave labor is prohibited.


PCC announces that it will transition its Seward Park store to a new and much larger location in Columbia City in 2015. The Issaquah and Redmond stores become the first two homes for WISErg Harvesters, an enzyme-driven digester that repurposes food scraps into liquid organic fertilizer. PCC sales exceed $200 million.


PCC opens its 10th store in Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood.

Cate Hardy


Cate Hardy is hired by PCC's board of trustees for the position of CEO.

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