Image for Staff Profile: Meet Gail Graham

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 Gail Graham — General Manager

How long have you served as Mississippi Market’s General Manager? What drew you here originally?

In October of 1999, Seward Co-op loaned me as General Manager (GM) to Mississippi Market. Seward had opened its newly expanded store 18 months prior and was on track for success. Mississippi Market opened our second location, the Selby store, in May of 1999 and things were in rough shape. Seward’s board graciously granted me a leave of absence but told me I would need to make a final decision after three months about where I wanted to continue serving as GM. My choice was to stay at Mississippi Market.

What have you loved most about working here? What has been the most rewarding part?

Working with so many amazing people, including board, staff, member-owners, and vendors alike, all of whom have been a part of our story and have contributed to our shared success. I am proud of the work that we have done, and proud of the impact we’ve made in our communities. It has been a special gift to see staff grow and develop, even though at times it has meant they leave for other opportunities. And it has been fun to make connections with members that have lasted many years. At our co-op, it doesn’t matter what I am able to accomplish alone. Rather, the importance lies in what we are all able to accomplish together.

Over the past twenty years, what has been the most challenging part of your job?

The job of GM has challenged and forced me to grow in countless ways. My initial role was to help determine if we could turn the co-op around, or if we needed to plan for an orderly bankruptcy. For the first few years, I needed to renegotiate terms with lenders who we couldn’t pay, bring more operating capital into the co-op, and work with key staff to get operations back on track. It required me to remain calm and positive while greatly testing my optimism. The stress of those early years helped me learn how to manage it, a great skill for all of us to have.

Where do you see Mississippi Market twenty years from now?

We’ve been a Saint Paul institution for over 40 years. Our remodel at Selby this year will help position us to continue serving our local communities for years to come. But what comes next? How do we innovate to stay relevant? I don’t have the answers. But I do have confidence that our board and new leadership will work diligently to figure it out. As they think ahead, they will help us while being flexible in our plans. For in today’s fast-moving world, we need to be able to respond fluidly.

Any big plans for retirement that you’re looking forward to?

Once I have retired, I look forward to continuing being a part of the co-op in a new way, as a dedicated member-owner. And if you don’t see me shopping, look for me on the dance floor!