Here we invite you to learn about how the People's Market functions and to get to know the people you see preparing your coffee, stocking the shelves, and greeting you at the register.
Located in the Student Union building at the University of Massachusetts, the People’s Market has long been the community’s go-to source for ethically-gathered food, beverages, and personal care products. Since its founding in 1973, it has been known as the best place on campus for coffee, herbal teas, fresh bagels, gourmet cheeses, healthy snacks, chilled beverages, yogurt, chocolate, and women’s health products. As one of the oldest student-run businesses on campus, the People’s Market is also a living classroom in cooperative management, mindfulness, and sustainability. Founded as a collective of women, today the Market consists of folks from all walks of life. We work with one another to achieve collective goals, and we strive to foster awareness of privilege, oppression, and identity both in our space and in our community. We aim to create a radically just, more equitable world in which our environment and our community can live long, prosperous lives.
As your alternative institution, the People’s Market has a strong commitment to providing the community with food from socially and environmentally responsible companies. We are the original and best source on campus for 100% organic and fair-trade coffee, provided by Dean’s Beans, which we proudly serve at competitive prices. We offer numerous vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free products, such as heavenly pastries from Northampton’s Café Evolution, various bulk snacks, and, of course, bagels. We support the best of local businesses. Benson’s Bagels of Springfield delivers our bagels fresh everyday. The Henion Bakery, located within walking distance of the store, provides our croissants, scones, doughnuts, and specialty baked goods. Good for You Tea, a project of a former People’s Market co-manager, provides a variety of herbal teas as well as health, beauty, and wellness products. We work to maintain excellent relationships with all of our vendors, especially the local ones; since 1973, the People’s Market has been a project of, by, and for the Valley community.
We stand in solidarity with organizations and movements that prioritize collective values and endeavor for social justice. We support the boycott of Coca-Cola because of the company’s insufferable environmental and labor practices. We recently ended business with all subsidiaries and affiliates of the multinational food corporation Dannon, known for its manipulative marketing practices. Traditional Medicinals, the company that provides about half of our herbal teas, regularly exceeds national and international environmental standards; it has invested for years in the Fair Wild certification program, and its headquarters is entirely solar-powered. We provide many products from Equal Exchange, a Massachusetts-based worker cooperative. A great majority of our products are fairly traded, so laborers involved in the production of these products are paid excellent wages. This means that the purchase of a chocolate bar allows workers around the world to better support and nourish themselves, their families, and the land on which they work.
Each semester, we donate at least one-half of all tips collected to various organizations whose missions we support.
Our commitment to social justice extends into our hiring process. We aim to reflect the community we serve, so we look favorably upon applications from women, people of color, people with disabilities, members of the working class, and queer and trans*-identifying people and their allies.
How We Operate
With consultation services provided by the Center for Student Business, the People’s Market is managed entirely by full-time undergraduate students. That means the clerk at the register could also be responsible for ordering coffee, designing advertisements, facilitating public workshops, or updating this website.
People’s Market is run as a collective wherein every worker is a co-manager with equal input in our business decisions. We pride ourselves in defying the conventional wisdom that businesses are best run by executives; we’ve been a financially self-sustaining collective for 40 years! As a result, we have a knowledgeable and passionate staff and maintain a working environment of transparency, equality, and respect.
At our weekly All-Staff meeting, we tackle issues and consider proposals in a roundtable discussion based on the Rochdale Principles. Every member holds veto power over proposed policy changes, which means that 100% of our membership must consent to a policy before it is put in place. Far from immobilizing us, this structure fosters empathy and compromise, and has helped us through many difficult problems both equitably and efficiently.
Many of the tasks of managing the market are divided among elected committees of co-managers, such as the bookkeeping, advertising, and maintenance committees. Each co-manager must sit on at least one committee in addition to working in the store, so everyone takes part in both managing and running the market. As a student-run business, we serve as a unique and powerful educational resource for UMass students, and the real-world business experience our members receive leads to excellent employment opportunities after college.