Moonflower Market employees (left to right) Jess Dye, June Armbruster, Derek Whitworth, Megan Lyle and Kaye Davis in front the the store on 100 North. [Travis Holtby / Moab Sun News]

Everyone knows that high stress jobs can be detrimental to one’s health. And after decades of work in the high stress grocery industry June Armbruster, the general manager at Moonflower Market, decided that she needed a change.

Armbruster’s first job was bagging groceries in 1972 in her hometown of Littleton, Colo.

“I started as a bagger and got promoted immediately to general merchandise,” she said.

When she moved to Moab to get away from the hectic city life she worked at a few different types of jobs, but she found herself missing aspects of the grocery world. Because of this, and her poor health, she decided to work at Moonflower Market.

“I came to Moonflower to be healthier,” Armbruster said.

And the knowledge and support that she got working at the natural food store seemed to do just that.

“When I started here I was on three inhalers and another pill that cost $100 a month. Now I don’t do any of that. My doctor wants to know where the hell I am,” she laughed.

The well-being that Armbruster found through eating healthier foods and taking natural supplements is exactly what Conrad Sorenson had in mind when he started Life Stream in Moab in 1975, the store that would eventually evolve into Moonflower Market.

In 1979, a few years after starting Life Stream, Sorenson decided to turn the health food store into a cooperative. He wanted to travel and get out of the day-to-day running of the operation without the store losing its values. To this end Moab Community Cooperative was created.

“We had a large response when we said we wanted to start a cooperative,” he said.

Around 80 people signed up and Sorenson left to travel around the American West. But some problems arose in his absence and the new managers asked him to come back and help.

“I told them I would give them one year to see what I could do, and that turned into 20 years,” Sorenson said. “We created an amazing following because we had lower prices than everyone. But I never, never, never could have done what I did without the help of the people there.”

Over those next 20 years the store moved locations several times, spending most of its life in a building made of old ammo boxes on 100 West across from Rim Cyclery.

Then, in 1999, the business changed hands. D’ahna Chalmers, Dave Steward, Kathy Bonde and Lisa Horzepa, all of whom had been involved in the cooperative for years, took over and turned the coop into a non-profit business. That new business was called Moonflower Market.

Since then the store has grown.

“We started off with a staff of seven people, now we have over twenty,” said Horzepa, a vegetarian who moved to Moab in 1994.

Supporting the community through providing education, as well as, healthy, ethical, and where ever possible, locally produced food is still paramount. Having customers come in and not have to check the labeling to know that they are buying some of the most responsibly produced products available is what makes Moonflower Market special, Armbruster said.

“What sets us apart is just being conscious of community, good health, what’s good for the environment, what’s politically right and wrong. Where as everyone else in the business is just out for money,” she said. “I like that we are willing to spend money or lose money because it’s the right thing.”

Moonflower also prides itself on its charitable donations. Along with many product and gift certificate donations to various groups and fundraising events, on the third Tuesday of every month the store donates 5-percent of that days total sales to a local non-profit.

And keeping in the tradition of constant change, next month Moonflower Market will transition into a member-owned cooperative.

“Full community involvement in directing the store will be a great part about it being a co-op,” Horzepa said. “And that everyone will still be able to shop here without being an owner.”