Socially responsible businesses are all the rage now, but in 1997 when we began, we were setting new ground in Detroit. Our concept was to have a business that did good and did well. Geri Larkin, corporate marketing executive turned Buddhist priest, introduced us to the Buddhist principle of "right livelihood". With her guidance, we refined our concept to three bottom lines: earth, community, employees. Avalon’s business model was born.
Earth: In all things, we aspire to “do the least harm.” In business, we strive to work in harmony with the earth and wherever possible contribute to the earth’s healing.
Organic: We are practical idealists, always balancing competing values. We want to be accessible to a cross-section of our community, yet we need an environmental line in the sand. Thus, the promise: no matter what happens, the price of flour or demands of the marketplace, we will only use 100% organic flour in all of our products.
A consultant once suggested that we start a non-organic (i.e. cheaper) line to attract more restaurant customers. We considered it for twelve hours, until waking up in the middle of the night and remembering, “We can't! The Avalon promise says 100% organic flour in everything we make everyday, not everything we say we make everyday!” We have run out of flour and driven all night to get organic bread flour from Traverse City. In 2008, when the price of flour tripled, we raised our prices for the first time in 10 years.... by 30%! We were nervous. Our customers’ response? “It’s about time, ladies!”
We are now the biggest organic bread flour purchaser in Michigan, purchasing over 9,000 pounds of organic, milled grains weekly from hard-working organic wheat farmers. By choosing organic flour, we vote with our dollars for businesses and farmers that support our values and protect the earth. We use other organic ingredients whenever possible, including raisins, whole grains, peanut butter, and seasonal local produce, and we provide organic choices in our Avalon Marketplace including coffees, teas and bread spreads.
Local: Organic is good; local can be even better. Supporting local farmers keeps our dollars in our economy, protects precious farmland from development, secures the highest quality food possible, and reduces the carbon footprint of our food. We strive to purchase produce from local and, whenever possible, Detroit farmers; this past summer, we purchased 750 lbs of local tomatoes, garlic, greens and myriad vegetables from the “Grown in Detroit” cooperative, a collaborative of over 90 Detroit growers. We are part of an "Agri-Urban" economy in Detroit that is fast becoming a model for other cities throughout the world. (www.detroitagriculture.org/GRP_Website/Grown_In_Detroit.html)
Our Marketplace features ” local and Michigan-based businesses offering jams, honey and other “bread spreads”.