Fern is the person who makes sure you have all your favorite tempehs, pastas, gluten-free crackers, and anything else that
falls in refrigerated, frozen, bulk, bread or packaged grocery at the Wedge. She’s also helped bring local treasures to
our shelves, like duck eggs from Living the Dream and fermented foods from Angelica’s Garden. But her passion for the
cooperative model goes way back to before she arrived at the Wedge. Right after finishing college, she joined the
George Street Co-op in New Brunswick, New Jersey. And she worked for natural foods stores and co-ops on the East Coast
until she did what so many people who now call Minnesota home have done: she moved here for a relationship.
“I had no sense of Minnesota at all,” she says, about moving here in 1993. But her reputation in the co-op world had preceded her,
and the general manager of the Wedge at the time, Dan Foley, created a job for her, and told her it’d be waiting for her
when she arrived. She started as a part-time buyer and part-time stocker for the Grocery department. And while she didn’t
know anyone when she stepped in the doors, it didn’t take long before everyone knew her.
Susan Patterson, a retail consultant for the Wedge, who used to work with Fern as a broker for Presence Marketing, recalls a story about taking one
of her vendors on a tour of the Wedge. “He was pretty nervous about getting to meet Fern, and kept asking me questions
about what she was like, so he could make a good impression. At the end of the tour he was just glowing, and he pulled me
aside and said, ‘I think she really likes me; she gave me a hug!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, Fern hugs everyone.’
” It’s true. Anyone who’s worked with her over the past two decades has at one point or another received a hug from Fern. “I just
really love people,” she says. “Relationships to me are the most important thing; the job is almost number two.” But it’s
really these connections with companies and individuals she has built over the years that have made her department what it
is: a showcase for high-quality, sustainably-produced and locally created fare. Fern set the buying standards at the
Wedge and it’s because of these standards that shoppers can trust all the food here. She built a foundation that has been
passed along and those standards will not change in her absence. She’s worked with families from Tunisia, foodies from
St. Paul, and an old hippie from North Dakota who back in the `90s would drive a truck to California to bring back
misos, tamaris, and other macrobiotics you just couldn’t get around here.
“That’s what I’ll miss most,” Fern says.
“The people. The thing I loved best about this job was that meetings weren’t just about food, but about what was going
on in everyone’s lives. I would ask because I’m sincere in wanting to know. I could never think of not doing that with
someone I’m doing business with. The same with our shoppers. There are many I know by sight, some by name. I know their
stories and have shared their joys and sorrows. And even add to my hug collection from time to time.”
“Fern is absolutely amazing,” said Josh Resnik, CEO. “She is a legend in the natural foods world. Walking the floor with
her at [the natural food show] Expo West, I was impressed by her instant
eye on whether a product would be a success in our store and also by how well-loved she was. We stopped often because people were coming up to give her hugs. She has been an inspiration
for me, and she will be missed.
” We want to express our heartfelt gratitude for all that Fern has done, and wish her all the best as she retires (in her own words) “to pursue quietly getting
back in touch with my hippie roots.” From everyone at the Wedge, thank you Fern. We’ll miss you dearly!