Small Business Q&A: Life Grocery & Cafe
This East Cobb non-profit co-op grocery is a regional source for healthy foods and information.
The Life Cafe side of the business started in 1993, and a classically trained chef prepares vegan, gluten-free and raw foods.
The vegan carrot cake will make any cream cheese lover swear the frosting has dairy products in it.
Ronnie Hudson, operations lead and co-manager, knows the prepared foods sold at the Cafe are genuine.
"Everything is made fresh. We don't use artificial colors or sweeteners. When we invite health experts to speak here, they're thrilled that we have the ability to feed them."
Recent past speakers include authors Dr. Dean Ornish, founder/president of Preventative Medicine Research Institute in California, whose studies have created the first Medicare approved, comprehensive lifestyle change program focused on reversing coronary heart disease; Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, the proclaimed "First Lady of Nutrition;" and living foods expert Dr. Brian Clement, co-director of Hippocrates Health Care Institute in Florida.
Local natural medicine practitioners are also scheduled to educate the community.
Co-manager Lisa Maden is the acting general manager of the co-op. She answers to a six-member board of directors elected each December at the members' meeting.
"The membership owns this corporation," Made said. "We're here to serve our members and reach out into the community."
"People come here from all over the region, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina. I even talked with a traveler from Alaska who saw us on the internet and stopped in when they were here," Hudson said.
Hudson is responsible for human resource duties for the 20 part-time and 5 full-time employees.
"In 2009 we started cutting staff because of the economy. We had 35 employees," Hudson said. "We've grown more efficient from being forced to look close at the big financial picture."
Maden added, "We usually see a raise in customers in January. This year, it's smaller than past years. I think people are guarded about the amount of money they spend, and take more time to make the best decisions possible when investing in their health."
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. Maden: It's a heartfelt pleasure to help people and teach people about health. I've been working here since 1994. I was a teacher before then.
Hudson: This environment is very supportive of our lifestyles. I'm a vegan, meaning I don't eat animal products at all, and a raw foodist. And Lisa follows a gluten-free, low glycemic diet. So, we've got "weird" diets.
I feel blessed to be around nonjudgmental people with a common goal to improve our health.
It's an easy atmosphere, no one is interested in converting anyone to a certain lifestyle. I've been on staff since 1996.
Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?
A. Maden: The people.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?
A. Maden: This location is convenient for our customers.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. Hudson: We're here to help people take responsibility for their health.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people don't know about?
A. Hudson: We have a large bulk foods department that is economical.
Our supplement department is huge and the staff very knowledgeable and helpful.
Maden: Some people come in and are very sick and want one pill that will cure them.
Your health doesn't work like that.
Once I sent away a man empty-handed. He had just found out that he had cancer and wanted to buy a big list of supplements that he had read about on the internet.
He had unrealistic expectations and we're not in the business of just taking people's money.
Hudson: I ask people simple questions, are you eating vegetables? do you drink water? do you exercise? It's all connected.
Q. How long have you been in business?
A. Maden: The co-op was founded in 1976 by students from what was then known as Life College [now Life University]. They pooled their resources and answered the need for healthy food in the community.
We estimate there were about 100 members to start and now we're at 5,000.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. Maden: Love what you're doing because you're going to have to work really, really long hours.
There's a saying, "If you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life."
Hudson: In this economy, I suggest that you make certain that you have adequate capital. I would advise waiting to start a new business until the economy gets better.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
A. Hudson: If you're concerned about your health and want a supportive environment to shop, we're here to serve you.
Maden: Abundant health is possible when we believe it is.
Life Grocery & Cafe
1453 Roswell Rd
770 977 9583