The art of business
Local artist to aid Chico Natural Foods’ reinvention
The late artist Andy Warhol once said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.”
Warhol’s words come to mind when it comes to Dylan Tellesen, a longtime local artist and former gallery director who has taught graphic design at Butte College for the past decade. Tellesen recently took over as marketing and ownership manager of the Chico Natural Foods Cooperative. He succeeds Janae Lloyd, whose final day on the job was last Thursday (July 25).
Lloyd left the post, which she occupied since 2009, in part because she is “going on a European trip” until the end of the year, Tellesen explained; she will spend part of that time with her brother, an artist living in Germany, taking in some art festivals, including the famous Venice Bienniale.
In his new position, Tellesen is a crucial piece in the store’s plans for expansion, slated to begin in the late winter or early spring. While the natural-foods cooperative will remain in its current building in Chico’s SOPO (South of Post Office) neighborhood, it will maximize the space it inhabits by doing such things as moving the kitchen—currently in the center of the store—to a rear corner, and moving upstairs offices downstairs, making room for the raising of the current ceiling. Chico Natural Foods is also working out the final details with Meline Photographics for use of its parking lot on the corner of Main and E. Ninth streets for co-op customers.
“The co-op’s growing,” Tellesen said, pointing out that the store’s sales have risen over the past three years. “The whole inside of the building will be gutted. … Basically, I think the impulse is to increase the amount of inventory and food production,” which will include new freezers and a hot-food steam table similar to those in Whole Foods Markets around the country.
“Natural organic food is becoming more popular,” he noted. “People are starting to understand that natural, health[ful], local, sustainable, organic food is for everyone, not just for environmental extremists.”
Part of the cooperative’s recent business growth has come from the addition, in 2006, of “fresh local meat” to the previously vegetarian store, said General Manager Liza Tedesco. The “grab-and-go” section—featuring deli items and fresh salads from the co-op’s kitchen—has also taken off.
She said she is confident that Tellesen has the people, business and creative skills to lead the growing co-op successfully into the future.
“I think Dylan brings a strong understanding of the organization, and can help to continue to build its image and help translate to the community what we do,” Tedesco said. “It’s like any artistic venture—it’s a collaboration. It’s an opportunity to grow and change. Moving forward, Dylan’s going to continue what Janae has developed … connecting our [member-]owners and our community with farmers and food, and with the cooperative ideals.”
When asked about the use of the word “rebranding” to describe the co-op’s metamorphosis (as some people have labeled the store’s push for change), Tedesco said it “falls flat.” She opts instead for “accessibility”: “I want to keep the environment as open and welcoming as possible, moving away from any sense that it’s a ‘club,’” as some have perceived it to be in the past. Along those lines, she discourages the use of the nickname “Chico Natty” for the Chico Natural Foods Cooperative, a nickname that “represents an era of being sort of exclusive.”
“A co-op is what we are—that’s our organizational structure,” she said. “We’re really trying to reinforce that language.”
For his part, Tellesen said he is “intrigued” by his new role.
“I’ve always been of multiple minds,” he said. “Maybe I’m atypical of ‘artland,’ but I find the business side [of things] interesting. It’s creative problem-solving—artists have a skill set in problem-solving.”