Since it opened in 2009, the Dill Pickle Food Co-op has been a community staple in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood and beyond. But what makes a co-op a co-op? We spoke with Dill Pickle general manager I’Talia McCarthy to learn about her personal connection to the cooperative world, and the values of community, sustainability, and environmentalism that drive Dill Pickle and likeminded stores around the country.

What drew you to working in co-ops?

I fell in love with cooperatives at a very young age. I was born and raised in northern California, and I was introduced to the cooperative world at age three. My dad is an immigrant from Antigua and Barbuda, and one of his first jobs after coming to the United States was volunteering at the Davis Food Co-op; he later managed and ran the deli department. During my childhood I was fortunate enough to see the co-op take the time and resources to train, develop, and invest in their employees’ growth and education.

I applied to be a cashier at Davis Food Co-op when I turned 18. I worked there for ten years in various capacities while earning my bachelor’s degree in history, and later my teaching credential and my master’s in education. After serving as the store manager for a couple of years, I left in 2018 to help run New Leaf Community Markets (a B-Corp Certified Organization, not a Co-op) in Santa Cruz. Though I planned on staying at New Leaf Community Markets for quite some time, I soon received an email from Dill Pickle expressing that they heard I’d moved on from my old co-op and they were looking for a new general manager. I was super intrigued by the idea of running a more urban and diverse community store so I decided to go for it.

What should people know about co-ops compared to traditional shopping?

Co-ops are people working together for better food, stronger communities, and a healthier world. However, the most unique and important thing about them is that they are democratically run and owned by consumers like you and I—not investors. I’m proud to be one of the 1.3 million members nationwide. Because of co-ops, communities can find meat that is sustainably raised and products that have been grown or made within 100 miles of where they live. (The average co-op purchases goods from 51 local farms and 106 other local producers.)

Co-operatives are also super diligent about recycling plastics, cardboard, and food waste. They carry three times more locally sourced products, donate more than three times as much annual income to charity, and sell more organic goods than conventional grocers while prioritizing employee wages and benefits.

What makes the Dill Pickle and its community so unique?

Cooperatives are businesses that are democratically controlled and financed, enabling community members to collectively fill local needs, and as a cooperative, the Dill Pickle has sustainability and concern for the community built right into its DNA.

With food costs and supply-chain issues on the rise, what else should people know about shopping locally?

Our store is very aware of the challenges that our community faces with rising costs, inflation, and supply issues. Dealing with the pandemic put a huge strain on our cooperative, our local partners, and more importantly our shoppers. We sadly saw a lot of our business partners go under in the last two years, and those who survived are struggling to stay open. Spending your dollars locally is more important than ever; small businesses are in crisis right now and need all of the support they can get.

We’re also very aware that consumers are becoming more sensitive to pricing and are working on tight budgets as inflation increases. In order to combat this, our co-op has been expanding its Co-op Basics and LinkMatch programs to make things more affordable and accessible to all consumers.

What specials and events do you have planned this month?

Stop by during our Wine Down Wednesdays from 5-7 PM, where you can chat and taste selected wines from featured winemakers, distributors, and buyers. You can also drop in on August 10 from 6-7 PM for a store tour led by our vice president and sustainability captain Brock Auerbach-Lynn to learn more about cooperatives and what it takes to be an owner. And if you like a good block party, we’re hosting one on August 20 with other local businesses and community groups.

We’re excited to show you our amazing local produce, meats, fish, and cheeses; our abundant zero-waste items; our impressive selection of vegetarian and vegan protein; and the great community and store that so many have worked to build. We hope you’ll check us out soon.

Stop by the Dill Pickle Food Co-op, 2746 N. Milwaukee Avenue, 8 AM-9 PM, seven days a week!

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Read more about the Dill Pickle Co-Op

Summer Fun at Your Local Community-Owned Grocery Store

Dill Pickle and Mercato: A Partnership on Shared Values

Local Members, Local Food

The Co-Op Wars

This sponsored content is paid for by The Dill Pickle Food Co-op. The co-op seeks to sustain a thriving community that has equitable economic relationships, positive environmental impacts, and inclusive practices grounded in cooperative values. 

Open 8 AM – 9 PM daily | 2746 N Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 252-2667 |