EinMACHGLAS is one of the newest refill stores in Germany and has already made a name for itself. On 120sqm, the store offers groceries, cosmetics, cutlery and more – and all without plastic packaging. What makes EinMACHGLAS so special is most likely the people and concept behind it: unlike other stores, EinMACHGLAS is managed and owned by a ‘Genossenschaft’, a cooperative of more than 700 people who promote welfare economics and focus on selling mostly regional products. Julia has a chat with Carmen Blust, chairwoman and store manager of EinMACHGLAS to learn more about the store.
Julia (J): Hello Carmen, thank you for taking the time to meet with me. EinMACHGLAS has opened its doors not even half a year ago for the first time in May 2020. What is the history behind the idea of the refill store and how did it become a reality?
Carmen (C): The cornerstone was put in place last year in May at a Fridays for Future demonstration here in Offenburg. During his speech, a student got the ball rolling when he talked about opening a refill store here in the city. A lot of people liked the idea and there were several meetings and people built working groups. I joined in July 2019. My background is in retail and I worked for more than 15 years as a company coach in the organic industry. In November 2019, we founded our cooperative which incorporates and finances EinMACHGLAS. Now we have over 720 members which are unrivalled for a project like ours.
J: Why did you choose to establish a cooperative organisation for EinMACHGLAS?
C: For us, it’s the perfect company model for our organisation. With it, we’re independent and for example, financing and working in the store are being distributed on many shoulders. We’re a welfare organisation. Roughly 50 of our members get involved as volunteers and a lot more want to volunteer. People who want to be a part of our cooperative can buy shares; one costs 50€. Shareholders can influence decisions and have a vote in meetings.
J: Who are the people that are a part of the EinMACHGLAS cooperative?
C: Everyone, really. Our youngest member is half a year old. Their parents gifted them with shares after birth. And our oldest member is 92 or 93 years old. We’ve got everyone here that is interested in EinMACHGLAS and the philosophy behind it: university professors, businessmen and craftsmen as well as people with a low income. There’re even two people that are unemployed who each have one share of EinMACHGLAS. Everyone is represented, our target group is called human.
J: On your website, you say that the focus of your refill store is regional products, sustainability, and ecology. Where do your products come from?
C: Most of our products are regional, that’s very important to us. Roughly 15 per cent are from the Ortenau, the rural district where our store is located. 50 per cent are from South Baden, the lower region of the state of Baden-Württemberg and 20 per cent are from the rest of Germany. We only obtain ten per cent of our products from other countries of the European Union and five per cent from the rest of the world. That would be bananas for example or cocoa, nuts, and coffee. Additionally, 90 per cent of our products are organic. We also have a wish list for our customers where they can write down products that they wish us to offer. We then see if the product fits into our concept: is it economically convertible? Can we buy it in large bulks and get it in paper bags? Unfortunately, plastic is not always avoidable, sometimes we have to make compromises
J: What do you offer your customers?
C: We have fruits and vegetables, pasta, beans, nuts, cosmetics, and much more. Our muesli, for example, is very popular. We obtain some of it from Heyho Müsli, which is without sugar. Then we also have gluten-free sweets from the region, from September onwards we’ll sell gluten-free bread as well. One other thing we sell is refill-bags. They’re my idea. Before we opened EinMACHGLAS, I went to Glaskiste in Freiburg, which is another refill store. I always took my containers with me, but it was just very heavy and impractical. So, we invented our own refill bags that are coated and washable. Lebenshilfe, a social organisation that works with disabled people is sowing them for us. It was very important for us to support a local, social organisation. We could also have the bags made in China or the Czech Republic for them to be cheaper, but that was out of the question for us. It would not fit in with our philosophy. We want to strengthen welfare economics in the region.
J: What are your plans for EinMACHGLAS for the future?
C: Our concept is very well received here. EinMACHGLAS can have a few more locations. And we’ll already open our second store next year in May or June in Kehl, which is a city at the French border. We’ll build another cooperative just for Kehl. A strong regional group is very important for our projects. Every city could need its own refill store in my opinion, but people need to burn for the idea.