Meet Rick Hood

What is Ellwood's mission?

Our mission is "aspiring to feed the heart and soul of our community through a commitment to local and organic foods.” This statement takes action through our stewards, suppliers, neighbors, friends and family around social and environmental consciousness and compassion for animals and community. We grow community by investing in it.

What does it mean to you?  

It means that we wish to create a personal connection with our customers.  That may sound crazy for a grocery store but it works for us – we have customers that are definitely part of the Ellwood’s family.  This kind of connection can only happen when you have a work environment where people are happy and enjoy their work.  Most businesses are based on speed, scale and lowest cost, ours is a low tech/high feel one that gives rise to uniqueness, quality, inventiveness and relatedness.  We strive to hire stewards that value community, appreciate the advantages of buying local and are interested in learning more about food.  We attract these great individuals by providing a company that has practices that reflect what they believe.   In order to continue to honor and strengthen our culture, we encourage a strong sense of community within the store by promoting teamwork, education and continued personal growth – we do it together.  The most common answer to “what is your favorite thing about working at Ellwood’s” is “my coworkers”. 

Why do you believe that you are a "steward" and call your employees "stewards?”

Steward (n.): a person who has a passion and cares for the future.  We hire stewards that are conscious of the Earth, its resources, and the beings populating it. They are encouraged to be active in the community and lead by example.

Why is local food better?

Local food is better because it is grown closer to your backdoor.  This is good for several reasons:

  1. It is fresher and often times more nutritious.
  2. It supports our small food economy and puts money back into our community.
  3. We are friends and neighbors with our local suppliers and those relationships are important. 
  4. Taste
  5. More transparent and trustworthy

What is your definition of Community?

Community results from the love and caring for all those that participate in our business including our family, neighbors and the city of Richmond as a whole. Even other independent grocers! It's about getting out of yourself and doing what's best for your fellow human being. Connecting and caring for the Earth including its’ wildlife, climate and plants. This is a precious and fragile world that we've been so fortunate to be born into. We want to preserve it for the next generation. 

Tell us about your standards?

Hippocrates said, "Food is thy medicine" and we believe that. We have the highest standards in our industry especially around "local" (We define local as 100 miles in radius, as the crow flies) and the ingredients in our produce, prepared food, and bulk. We are active in removing GMO products from our store and do not have products that market to children w/ major cartoon characters.

What do you see in Ellwood's future?

I see creating deeper and deeper local relationships with all of which we interact. Constant education about local food choices is meaningful for our stewards and therefore our customers. We would like to slowly grow stores in our local area, which is within 100 miles of our store where we can participate in redevelopment by creating more community and connection w/ local economy. We value the local food movement and want to be as meaningful to that shared conversation as possible. 

How would you describe your relationship to food?

It's a great deal of fun to learn about heritage and heirloom varieties of local vegetables and fruits that are often better tasting and certainly healthier. I enjoy sharing delicious tasting food that surprises and delights friends and family. It's such a positive way to slow down and bring people closer together. It's these times that I feel especially fulfilled and appreciated in our mission. Our chefs are creating a whole cuisine around local and healthy. Especially vegetarian/vegan. With outstanding taste Ellwood's aspires to be at the forefront of the evolving Richmond regional food cuisine.

What is Ellwood's store experience?

People tell us that we have a warm community gathering spot that feels egalitarian and encourages cultural diversity. It's that 3rd place after work and home described by Ray Oldenburg in "The Great Good Place.” People love our stewards and we love them too! We value simplicity, honesty w/ a sunny staightforwardness. We've built the store in a sustainable, enviro-friendly manner that also reflects the history and art scene of Richmond. If our customers continue to describe us as friendly, comfortable and unique, we will have succeeded.

Lastly I am humbled by the degree of details in this business and there still much I have to learn. I'm lucky to have this opportunity to lean into a values centered life and help propel the change I want to see.