Our Amazing Staff
The Co-op employs more than 160 staff in 12 different departments. From cashiers to buyers to clerks to assistant managers, everyone at the Co-op plays a critical role in serving members and customers, looking for and learning about great new products and suppliers, making our systems run smoothly, and bringing new ideas to the table to help us grow healthy and strong.
Michelle has been working in the Natural Foods and Supplement industry since 1993 and has studied herbalism under Terry Willard at the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing. Tired of being a “small organic vegetarian algae in a big sea” in Ontario, Michelle moved to Nelson as a young woman after hearing from a friend that the town had a huge population of natural food consumers. “I felt like my true home was calling to me, a place where organic food and a healthy lifestyle was second nature to many, a place where my values were shared and respected.”
She has remained passionate about Natural Healing and dedicated to empowering others to take their health and wellness into their own hands. She started working at the Co-op in 2001, and occupied a variety of positions including Wellness Assistant Manager, Marketing Manager and is happy to be contributing to the Co-op team as the Wellness Manager.
Tory Berger, Human Resources Manager (on leave)
Tory is originally from Salmon Arm, BC, and spent 10 years living in Calgary, after completing her Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Calgary. She then moved to Nelson and joined the Kootenay Co-op in summer 2016. Professionally, she started her career in public relations and then moved on to HR, taking on roles in training and development, recruitment and HR information systems. She also has experience in talent management and business process improvement. Tory is committed to ensuring that the Co-op is one of the best places to work in Nelson.
Ari Derfel, General Manager
Ari Derfel has spent the last twenty years as an entrepreneur at the intersection of sustainable food and responsible business. He started the world’s first organic catering and sustainable event-production company in 2001, opened numerous sustainable restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, and dedicated two years as the national Executive Director of Slow Money, a non-profit focused on catalyzing investment in local food systems. Ari moved to the Nelson area in 2014 and previously served the Kootenay Co-op as Business Process and Development Manager and as a consultant. Read Ari’s bio (PDF).
Ashley Elliott, Interim Human Resources Manager
Ashley grew up in Nelson and then spent the last 20 years in living and working in Calgary. She moved back to Nelson in June of 2018 to join the Kootenay Co-op while Tory was on maternity leave. During her time in Calgary she completed a diploma and degree in Business with a specialization in Human Resources and has worked in the human resources field ever since.
Ashley has worked in all areas of HR over her career with a recent focus on employee relations, leadership coaching, and change management. She has worked for multiple organizations of various sizes and has also spent time abroad working. Ashley is committed to ensuring that the Co-op is one of the best places to work in Nelson.
Kristina has been the Front End Manager since February 2016, meaning that she oversees cashiers and customer service.
Kristina is originally from Germany and moved to Canada where she studied Chinese Medicine and began working at the Co-op in the Wellness department in 2002.
Her many years in the Wellness department helped her grow an extensive product knowledge and a familiarity with members’ expectations. Kristina is a problem solver and loves to find ways to make the Co-op’s systems more efficient. She runs a happy team of almost 30 staff.
Visit Customer Service.
Christoph has been with the Co-op since 2004 in various positions. Currently, he is excited to be the manager of our Delicatessen.
Christoph was born into a cooperative in Friesland, Paraguay, and understands deeply the benefits of the co-op structure. He started out in commercial agriculture in the ’80s, working with pigeon, chicken, quail and pheasants and later obtaining a diploma in Livestock Agriculture from the University of the Fraser Valley. He became involved with organics in the ’90s, raising goats, chickens and ducks, working for Meadowbrook farms, running a market garden and developing an urban farm on the outskirts of Nelson.
Bruce Miller, Facilities Manager
Ben started working at the Co-op in 2006, and he gained experience in both the Grocery and Produce departments before taking the helm as Produce Manager. Ben immigrated from the UK and brings with him a wide range of experience. He grew up in a family that owned a restaurant and with a mother who taught cooking. Ben worked four years with the UK’s Soil Association, which also contributed to his reverence for, and understanding of, food issues. Ben has also cooked for guests in ski resorts in France and the US.
Ben has also been involved with other related groups including Kootenay Co-op Radio, Kootenay Local Agricultural Society (KLAS) and most recently FarmFoodFork. The Co-op’s role at the forefront of local, dynamic business is exciting to be part of and one with which Ben is pleased to evolve.
Tyler Riddell, Butcher Shop Manager
Tyler grew up on Vancouver Island loving nature, the mountains, and snowboarding. After graduating, he moved to Vancouver, working in grocery stores in the summer and the mountains in the winter. One summer, he landed in a meat department and found a new passion, and soon took on an Meat Cutter Apprenticeship. Eight years passed in the big city and Tyler had moved up to meat department manager, but he longed to be back in nature. Tyler quickly found the Kootenay Co-op and it was a perfect fit!
“Getting to know the farmers that grow for us and the community that we get to support has been an amazing opportunity you don’t get at other grocery stores,” Tyler said. “The Kootenay Co-op is different from the rest and I am very excited to be a part of that lifestyle.”
Visit the Kootenay Co-op Butcher Shop.
David Reid, Marketing and Communications Manager
David has worked for over 15 years on behalf of the environment and food security, connecting people with the places that sustain them through education, advocacy, and community-building. David also has a Master’s Degree in Dispute Resolution and has lived in Nelson since 2009. David literally shed a tear the first time he walked into the Kootenay Co-op, and he was very proud to join the Co-op team in 2017.
The desire for more room, cleaner air and a better work/life balance brought Sean to the relative peace and tranquility of our little community. He managed to escape the stressful social environment of big city life and has been working at the Co-op since October 2014. Sean has a Bachelor of Commerce degree, a post-secondary Chartered Professional Accountant designation and is a member of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. His responsibilities include management of the Coop’s financial risks. He is also responsible for financial planning, record-keeping, data analysis and reporting. On a daily basis, he supervises the finance team and assist the General Manager on strategic and tactical matters as they relate to budget management, forecasting, cost-benefit analysis and the acquisition of new funding. He loves using his skills to support the Co-op’s future growth in our new Vernon street location. Sean is very pleased to be working in a Co-operative organization where profit is not the sole objective and community, people and ethics are highly valued. When he’s not a t work, Sean enjoys spending time with his family and is currently building a new home.