Interview with Mark Mulcahy: Regenerative Retail Specialist

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March 22nd 2020

Mark laughingMark Mulcahy is an award-winning retail consultant, educator, and organic advocate. He consults for co-ops, independent retailers, farmers, and produce distributors worldwide, and has presented numerous workshops at the Provender Alliance Annual Educational Conference over the years.

Mark is the co-creator and presenter of the acclaimed Rising Stars leadership development course for natural food retailers which has trained over 2,500 managers, and Roots & Relationships, a fun, thought-provoking, interactive and inspiring journey into the unique legacy of food and its relationship and connection with our mind, body, and community. 

What led you to work with grocery and food co-ops?
“In the late ’70s and early ’80s, I was reading Rachel Carson, Wendell Berry, Edward Abbey, and Masanobu Fukuoka, which piqued my interest in creating a better world. I started working at a co-op in Walnut Creek, California that didn’t sell any organic food, which was curious to me. I thought “someone’s gotta be growing food without using chemicals…” And my quest began!

I moved on to another natural food store and learned how to become a produce buyer at the San Francisco Produce Terminal, walking the docks and picking out everything my customers would eat from my department. Only the freshest, tastiest, in-season produce would do. Then I honed my merchandising and community education skills when I started working at Locust Street Market in Walnut Creek. I remember doing my LSM interview with telling the owners that I would take the job of produce manager if I could create an all-organic produce department. No one was doing that in that area at that time. After a few days of thinking it over, they agreed to hire me at a rate of $10 an hour. At the time, I had a job that paid $25 an hour. I told my wife ‘Hey, I’ve got an opportunity to create the first all organic produce department in the Bay Area, but it comes with a decrease in pay.’ She said, “If you believe in it, you gotta go for it.”

And go for it I did! It took seven years to create the first all-organic produce department in the Bay Area. Finally finding the last organic item while leading an Expo farm tour and shipping organic mushrooms from Pennsylvania to complete the task.”

What do you love about working with food co-ops and grocery stores?
“When I first started in this industry, we had to dream organics into existence. Now people walk around lamenting that every store carries organic food and that they have to work harder to sell it. I think it’s fantastic! I truly believe that we as humans have the capacity to create the world we want. It takes work to make it happen and you have to take risks and let go to make something better than what you have. If you can dream it, you can do it!

I remember walking into the co-ops and independent natural food stores I worked at the first time and feeling like I had come home. I had found my tribe. The consciousness, the love, caring for people all rang true. Whatever they lacked in operational excellence they made up in heart. And it’s still the same today. I’ve heard many people say this same thing over the years. I dove right in built the All Organic Department, started teaching workshops about selling organic food for retailers and growers, and created a 2nd-grade farm to school program in the Bay Area. All this led to dreaming an organic produce consulting company into existence and I’m still reaching for the stars today.”