Wheatsville Co-Op


How Wheatsville Co-Op in Austin, Texas, used our approach to training for better bottom-line results!

an interview with Dana Tomlin from Wheatsville Co-Op in Austin, Texas

Wheatsville Food Co-op is a natural foods cooperative grocery store, which has been serving the central Austin community since 1976.

Please tell us a little about Wheatsville Co-op and your role there.

Wheatsville Co-op is located in Austin Texas, with approximately 12,000 owners and we just celebrated our 37th birthday. We recently went through a very successful renovation during which we stayed open the entire time and experienced 13% growth–that is pretty amazing! We recently opened our 2nd location and we are planning for 3-5 stores in the Austin area. I am currently the Deli Manager, with the opening of the south Lamar location I will be changing positions to become the Fresh Manager. I started at WV about 10 years ago as a cook, then Kitchen Manager, and then Deli Manager. I am very involved in Open Book Management and have taught classes on running open book in a busy store setting. I also teach our customer service class at Wheatsville, More Happy People 101. We believe strongly in generosity and kindness at Wheatsville and strive to foster open and honest direct communication.

When and how did you first hear about Zingerman’s? ZingTrain?

I heard of Zingerman’s and ZingTrain years ago when we had one of our first trainings. It was either working on creating an all-store passport or creating a vision for the new renovated Wheatsville. We have worked so much with ZingTrain and adopted so many of the Zingerman’s practices and ways of doing business that it is hard for me to remember the beginning!

Tell us about the work you’ve done with ZingTrain. What was involved?

What did you find particularly useful? We have worked to create an all-store training passport for all our employees, create a vision for the new renovated Wheatsville space, learn bottom line change, leadership training involving feedback styles and communications, create a vision for the new South Lamar location, and most recently creating a training passport to train our trainers!

Has your organization changed because of the work you’ve done with ZingTrain and, if so, how? What would you say has been the biggest take away from your work with ZingTrain?

We have changed significantly. We made a choice to be the friendliest store in town, and when we made that choice we were really far from the mark. But we did a lot of work to change that and working with ZingTrain was one key part of that change. We really focus on clear feedback and expectations. The passport we use to train all our employees really helps make that point. My biggest takeaway is that you have to do the work. ZingTrain is very different from other trainings I have been to. The teachers are engaged and the information is relevant. They will push you to be the best that you can and give you the tools and information to get there but you won’t get better if you don’t commit to doing the work!

Do you have any advice for an organization that is considering working with ZingTrain?

Do the work!!! ZingTrain can give you tools that can result in happier employees, better systems, clearer expectations but you won’t get results if you don’t do the work.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I highly recommend using ZingTrain! Create a training passport! Adopt Open Book Management in your business! It is worth it. It becomes a way of life and creates better business results and who doesn’t want that?!

We caught up with Dana after Thanksgiving to see how things were going and how the new store was doing with a big holiday under its belt. The new store opened in September and now I’m even more of a believer in the entire system which I didn’t even think was possible! I believe that opening the new store was a real test. The original store has been open for 37 years and has over the years organically established a strong and wonderful culture and we knew that we needed to communicate that culture to the new store.” The passport kept us on the path to doing that. Opening the new store is a little bit like going to war but when it got tough the training passport kept us straight. We stayed on point and didn’t cut corners and it helped us keep the important things sacred.

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