“There’s rarely a day I don’t look forward to coming in to work,” says Bud Stockwell, founder, owner and manager of Cornucopia. Coming up on thirty-five years of serving the good folks of the Pioneer Valley and beyond, the store is, at its heart, a place to learn, explore, and purchase quality natural foods and supplements. It’s a resource for the community, and the centerpiece of Stockwell’s lifelong mission.
In 1974, Bud began working with an agency to mobilize communities toward action, “to stop complaining and do something.” The result was a long-running natural foods co-op storefront in Agawam. Along with the Western Massachusetts Food Cooperatives, the Northeastern Food Cooperatives, he worked to promote the idea of co-ops as a sustainable community resource, and to organize them in other communities. In 1976, he wrote a grant to hire thirteen people to go into low-income neighborhoods in Springfield to continue his work.
When in 1978 Bud was hired by Yellow Sun, then a large natural foods cooperative in Amherst, the elements of what would build Cornucopia began to fall into place. “I met Sydney at the party they held to introduce me to the members of the co-op,” Bud remembers. “We had our eyes on each other from the beginning.” So began a friendship. The two went out to dinner, some movies, and when both became conveniently eligible, their romantic partnership began.
When the doors of Cornucopia opened on June 23rd, 1980, it was the first store on the basement-level of Thorne’s Marketplace at the center of Northampton. The only employees were Bud, his mother Jean Stockwell, his grandmother Ruth Bradley, and Sydney. They’d built every fixture except the metal shelving. Just two months later, on August 30th, Sydney Flum and Bud Stockwell were married in the store in front of the produce case, and had their reception at Paul & Elizabeth’s restaurant, still a Thorne’s neighbor to this day.
Half a year later, the Cornucopia institution known as Iain Stewart was hired to work the register, cut gigantic two hundred-twenty pound wheels of Gruyere, and anything else that was needed. Thirty-four years later, Iain is the store’s all-knowledgeable supplements buyer, and an accomplished digital photographer besides. Behind the herbs counter, you can see an ad hoc gallery with beautifully detailed nature and landscape images rotating constantly.
For a long time, the staff remained small. “For years, I was here every hour the store was open,” Bud says. These days, however, the staff has grown from family to just over twenty caring and competent folks that operate the store’s six departments. Just like any independent business, the store has had to defend itself from corporate giants cropping up, particularly over the last decade. “Five other natural food stores have disappeared since Whole Foods has opened, but we’re still here. We’re still doing it.”
“There has always been a high sense of ethics that’s pervaded our store philosophy. There’s been honesty in dealing with customers. We’ve never been about making a quick buck. From Day One, I’ve been talking people out of buying more vitamins than they need. Our diet section has always remained small – because it’s not what the store is about. We’ve never followed fads. And it’s the strength of our integrity has carried us straight on through.”