If Southeast is your neighborhood, you know People's. People's is that co-op grocery that feels part hayseed meetin' place, part Burning Man bus ride. That isn't a hippie slur--in terms of cooperative food stores, People's is the real thing: locally grown organic produce, homeopathic remedies, herbal tinctures and a supportive, sometimes barefoot member community that keeps it in clover. The site at Southeast 21st Avenue and Tibbetts Street has been a food market for 80 years and a co-op for 32, making it Portland's granola grande dame. Put it this way: When you absolutely need flax seed in bulk, you think People's first.
And if you know People's, you know there's been some big diggin' over there recently. They've just completed a gargantuan, seven-years-in-the-making expansion project, yielding a building that is two-and-a-half times the size of the original space (patrons of the old People's know things could get a little cramped in there, particularly during a summer swelter).
True to the co-op's principles of sustainable living, the new store was mindfully constructed to minimize environmental impact. From the eco-roof to the earthy cob building materials, stormwater management to energy efficiency, People's is Portland's latest superstar green building. For financing, the little co-op that could was handed two grants from the city's Office of Sustainable Development and a grant from the Community Watershed Stewardship Council.
But this is a food column, so let me mention that People's has also dramatically expanded and improved its product selection. You can still get bulk flax seed, but People's has filled many of those grocery gaps that used to make co-op shopping a gamble. Look, honey--toilet paper! Pet food! Add to that an even better selection of esoteric ingredients--lovers of bee pollen and wakame will hosanna themselves. But carnivores please note: People's is still all vegetarian.
To celebrate its re-debut, People's is holding a weeklong celebration from March 22 to 29. From the first ribbon-cutting, People's will be rockin' its new house with live music, free product samples, raffles, workshops, speakers, tabling, tours, bike tune-ups, daily yoga, free massages, a farmers market, classes and panel discussions. Each day's events will focus on a different theme related to sustainability, from agriculture to local economies to personal health. In other words, it's a great big progressive ideals-fest, with good-for-you chow to go with.
For more info about the hoo-ha, visit the People's website, www.peoples.coop. People's people may eat like ancient people, but their business model couldn't be fresher.
People's Food Co-op
3029 SE 21st Ave., 232-9051. 9 am-9 pm daily.
Note: This week the original Miss Dish is playing dress-up in the Look column while WW's fashion maven, Elizabeth Dye, is feasting on the food beat.