PCC history | PCC Natural Markets

PCC history

As the largest natural foods retail cooperative in the country, PCC Natural Markets has a long and colorful history. We began as a food-buying club for fifteen families in 1953, so our passion for delicious food and our commitment to community go way back. Here's a quick timeline marking some of the more important milestones in our history.


Several families begin food-buying clubs in Seattle and Renton areas to share the expense of quality, local foods. These clubs operate sporadically on an as-needed basis.


Fifteen families incorporate their food-buying club as Puget Consumer Cooperative or PCC. Natural foods are purchased and distributed, but they are not the primary focus. The cooperative operates on a rebate structure, with each family purchasing $50 in certificates to build and maintain a storefront in Renton.

The cooperative elects a Board, which meets monthly, and members pay dues biannually. A monthly newsletter is started-the beginning of what is now PCC Sound Consumer.


Renton location closes and 340 households open a storefront in Madrona. The rebate system ends and co-op operating expenses are funded by regular dues-each household pays dues proportional to household size.


Co-op membership reaches 650 households. A membership split occurs between those that want to focus on natural foods and those with a primarily economic interest. The members focused on natural foods establish a storefront in the University District, where the majority of PCC memberships are based. Sales that year at the new 2261 N.E. 65th location top $66,000.


Product expansion begins as mercantile items are introduced at the store. Randy Lee was hired as PCC's assistant manager and soon became store manager.


The member dues system is replaced by one of structured markup. Some members feel PCC is getting too big — they withdraw their certificates and start the Capitol Hill Co-op.

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, ensuring all staff become co-op members automatically, and ensuring all workers equal pay.

Staff meetings became more formal. Workers take on some management responsibilities, marking the beginning of worker management of the coop, which eventually develops into democratic management.


Membership grows to 1,887. Some members withdraw their certificates, and, with an additional loan from PCC, start Phinney Street Co-op.

PCC member Darlyn Rundberg initiates the now widespread Seattle P-Patch program with help from PCC.


Mercantile and packaging departments are moved across the street to make more room for products. Membership reaches 3,466, sales top $1 million.


Store moves to Ravenna location (NE 65th and 20th Ave. NE). Everything is moved up the street and around the corner by an antline of people on the sidewalks carrying boxes in their arms or pushing them on handtrucks while cars, vans and pickups ferried the larger items back and forth on the hill between the two locations.

The new site attracts an increased clientele and prompts explosive growth — membership doubles, sales more than double and staff triples by 1978. Net earnings: $884. The Capitol Hill Co-op closes.


Net earnings reach $48,219.


Kirkland store opens after purchasing Co-op East. Net earnings — $79,190. Transition from one store to a multi-store organization begins with the centralization of some functions. The PCC Board encourages the formation of corporate committees, with board, staff and members.

The Basic Food Basket program begins: The Basic Food Basket was a list of staples that changed each month — grains, beans, fruits, dairy, vegetables — that were subsidized by other products so they could be kept at a low price for people on limited incomes.

The PCC Board loans money to set up the Central Co-op (to replace the defunct Capitol Hill Co-op).


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 all-natural products anywhere else. The Board and staff realize that more stores are needed.

The Bylaws are revised again. Finances and goals are voted on by membership, and an initiative procedure is instituted. Ravenna membership is closed to new members due to overcrowding.


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.

Greenlake store opens! Corporate offices move to Greenlake from Ravenna. Kirkland experiences continuing financial losses. A Board-requested study by Alaska Consulting is conducted. Results indicate both the physical store and the management structure need revamping.


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

The Board becomes increasingly aware of its inability to oversee the organization and creates a General Manager job description. The Articles of Incorporation are amended.

The Kirkland store is remodeled based on suggestions from the Alaska Consulting study. Ravenna store membership is reopened as sales start to fall there.


PCC's first general manager is hired. More central office jobs are developed. The Board makes some major Bylaw amendments including having only two staff members on the Board and establishing new Board compensation. The Board also decides to remodel Ravenna.


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


Ravenna remodel is completed. Lyle Whiteman is hired as general manager. More amendments to the Bylaws are made.

Ravenna moves to join Greenlake and Kirkland in unionization by beginning separate union negotiations for set terms of employment. Pacific Rim, PCC's major natural foods wholesaler declares bankruptcy. PCC office moves to a separate building in the University District.


NutraSource, a new natural foods wholesaler, is established to help supply PCC. The Seward Park location opens. A Meat Shop, Inc. service counter is put in at the Ravenna store — member initiative opposing this is defeated. Union contract is renegotiated. Office staff decertifies from union. Articles of Incorporation are amended.


View Ridge store opens.


The employment contract with Ravenna is renegotiated, as Ravenna becomes a part of the union. PCC purchases part interest in the shopping center where the Kirkland store is located, through its subsidiary Eastside Development Co-op.

A remodel begins on the Kirkland store. Computer systems are brought in-house; accounting is entirely computerized for the first time.


The Kirkland remodel is completed, the West Seattle store opens and a remodel of the Greenlake store begins. A strategic planning process begins. The PCC office moves to its current location, 4201 Roosevelt Way N.E., and enjoys twice the space.


Ravenna remodel begins. Strategic planning process continues. Board review of Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws begins. PCC now boasts six stores, sales well over $500,000 each week all year, more than 200 staff members and more than 35,000 active members.


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. Lyle Whiteman leaves. 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.


South Everett store opens in January; Jeff Voltz is hired as general manager in April. With the increased number of stores, remodels occur more frequently and are less comprehensive. Negative net earnings.


Board and management focus on upgrading operations and the planning process. Negative net earnings.


Alfalfa's announces plans to open stores in Seattle. PCC's Fremont store opens in December. Work on strategic planning continues; a plan to integrate scanned membership cards is formulated. A full-service deli is added to the Ravenna store. An Operations Coordinator position is created to supervise store coordinators. Negative net earnings.


Greenlake Market business is purchased, with plans to open "Greenlake II" in early 1996. The South Everett store is closed, a first for PCC. Labor contracts up for negotiation Co-op wide sales exceed $800,000 per week, over 300 people on staff. Wholesale Foods Co-op re-organizes to handle PCC's real estate issues.


Greenlake II opens May 24; scanning of member cards begins May 1; new price structure, eliminating the non-member mark-up, begins June 1. Alfalfa's closes its Seattle store 14 months after opening, in June.


Old Greenlake building sold. Sales close to $1 million a week in March, with the new Greenlake store breaking $200 thousand a week that month, the highest PCC sales ever. This is the most profitable year in PCC history to date (net earnings 2.19% of sales).


Net earnings top 2.21% of sales, even more profitable than 1997. Focus turns to legislative issues such as USDA's proposed Organic Rules, state Safe Food Initiative. Coalition of NW food cooperatives formed, Northwest Co-op Grocers Association, to increase cooperative buying power.

PCC Board makes transition to Carver model of governance — a model that enables organizational boards-as "servant-leaders" of shareholders, public, members (or other "ownership" equivalent) — to ensure that the organization achieves board-stated goals and conducts themselves with probity.

Health and beauty aids and household departments go cruelty-free; fragrance items kept separately in each store. Begin using PCC Natural Markets as store name.


The new Issaquah store opens in November. Whole Foods Markets, Inc. opens their first natural foods supermarket in Seattle in the Roosevelt neighborhood that same month.


Management is restructured. Tracy Wolpert is brought in as COO and a new marketing director hired. Jeff Voltz leaves the co-op in November. The Board appoints Randy Lee and Tracy Wolpert as co-CEOs. PCC experiences a net loss of $841,508 after tax credit. The Board votes to close the Ravenna store.


Ravenna store closes on January 13, 2001. The Board names Tracy Wolpert CEO. Net earnings rise to $1,052,413 after tax. The Seward Park building is purchased. Neighborhood meetings are held on what to do about Ravenna. PCC leaves the Northwest Cooperative Grocers Association (NWCGA), joins the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA).


The Ravenna building is sold. High volume of sales at Fremont prompts plans to build a new larger Fremont location. PCC generates sales of $75,000,000, representing an impressive increase of 11.6% over 2001, a year that had already seen growth of 6.6%.


PCC Natural Markets gets a new logo and look for the stores' marketing materials. The tagline, "A world full of delicious opportunities" is adopted. The new Fremont store opens during the summer offering more sales space and increased parking.

The Web site is redesigned, incorporating the new logo and branding. Visitors to the Web site increase significantly.


PCC continued to invest in our stores with a significant remodel of our View Ridge location and interior upgrades to our Greenlake and Kirkland locations. A more-flexible discount benefit program for PCC members was also implemented.


PCC announces the opening of its eighth location in Redmond. The store is slated to open in spring of 2006.


PCC opened its eighth store on May 17 in Redmond, Wash. The 23,382 square foot grocery store offers greater Redmond area shoppers a wide selection of organic and natural products in one of the "greenest" structures in King County. Building enhancements that maximize energy efficiency and minimize waste are expected to qualify the store for LEED certification, which would make PCC Redmond the third grocery store in the country to be awarded this distinction, and the first to attain the LEED Gold level.


PCC eliminates plastic shopping bags from all stores and begins the Think Reuse campaign. PCC also removes products from its shelves containing rBGH, trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup.


The Edmonds PCC opens much to the delight of North King and South Snohomish County co-op members. The store is designed to achieve LEED platinum certification. Membership swells to 45,000 households.


The PCC Cooks program wins the 2009 Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (Avocational Cooking Schools category). PCC also announces its requirement of all personal care products manufacturers to comply with ingredient criteria as defined by the Natural Products Association (NPA) Natural Standard.


PCC signs the lease for its tenth store, to open in the Green Lake neighborhood in 2013. PCC becomes the first retailer in the country to be “gluten-free endorsed” by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG). PCC also makes a substantial commitment to the Non-GMO Project in support of the non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization’s efforts to preserve and build sources of non-GMO products and provide verified non-GMO product choices.


PCC is honored with the prestigious “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.

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