Image for Staff Profile: Meet Catherine Downey

As a community-owned and cooperatively-operated business, co-op employees are some of Mississippi Market’s greatest assets. Our friendly, dedicated staff possess a wealth of knowledge. They work diligently to provide you with access to the freshest, healthiest foods and the safest, most effective personal health and beauty care products available. Our three stores employ over 200 people from our surrounding local communities who are passionate about sustainably grown and humanely raised foods; supporting local family farmers, vendors, and makers; and nurturing the health of people and the planet. We wouldn’t be here without them!

Interested in joining our co-op team?

Meet Catherine Downey — General Manager

How long have you been working at the co-op, and what brought you here originally?

I’ve been working at the co-op for 27 years! When I started working at Mississippi Market, I was living with my parents and needed a job so I could move out. I originally started as a part-time cashier.

In what ways are your personal values reflected in your work at the co-op?

As a child, I tagged along on my mom’s shifts at the Northside Food Co-op in North Minneapolis. I was influenced early on to value good food, local producers, supporting my local community, and building authentic relationships. Having the opportunity to work for a co-op, with access to amazing food and great people, has pretty much been my dream job.

What other roles have you held at the co-op? Did your previous roles prepare you for your current position?

Prior to becoming general manager, I was a cashier, front end manager, accounts payable clerk, human resources manager, store manager, and operations manager. Everything I’ve done at the co-op has prepared me for my current position, including actively listening to others, being curious, living in the benefit of the doubt, learning from mistakes, serving others, allowing myself to change my mind, and using kindness — the world needs more of it.

What are the most rewarding and the most challenging parts of your job?

I look forward to coming to work every day! I find joy in the interactions I have with coworkers and customers and am always learning something new. I also enjoy the teaching aspect of my job and watching people grow. The most challenging part is staying relevant in a fiercely competitive market, including retaining both customers and staff. Natural foods are available almost everywhere these days. A huge challenge continues to be convincing consumers to spend their dollars at the co-op, a local business with multiple bottom lines, including concern for community.

What changes have you seen at the co-op and in the natural foods industry since you started working here? How has the co-op evolved over time?

We’ve grown from one store with 35 employees to three stores with over 200 employees. Continuing to serve more of our local communities is a big part of how we’ve evolved throughout the years. When I started working at the co-op, there were no Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, and now they, and many other grocers, are here in full-force. We’ve also seen a lot of consolidation among both producers and distributors.

What is your outlook for the co-op over the next 40 years? Do you envision it growing, expanding or changing?

Yes! Being creative, flexible and adaptable are all key ingredients to our future success. Continuing to figure out how to meet the changing needs of consumers is also incredibly important. I think we’ve done a pretty darn good job in the last 40 years and am confident we will continue to do so. Stay tuned!