Meet Satina Braswell, new general manager at Common Ground


Satina Braswell was chosen to be the new general manager of Common Ground Food Co-op. 

By Alicia Lee

After a nationwide search, Common Ground Food Co-op’s board of directors chose Satina Braswell to be the new general manager.

Braswell, 24, who is currently the merchandising manager, will take on her new role starting June 22.

Braswell has worked at the co-op since 2011, first holding an entry-level job and working her way up to general manager. However, she said getting to this point in her life was not easy.

“I had a little bit of a rough history growing up. I moved around a lot and didn’t have a stable household or anything like that,” Braswell said. “I got engaged when I was 18. I moved out that day and have been supporting myself since.”

She tried going to community college, but after realizing that she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do with a degree, she quit. She tried joining the Marine Corps for some time, but quit that as well. To support herself, she started working at Walmart.

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“I worked at Walmart for a long time, probably over three years,” Braswell said. “I worked my way up from cashier to the point where I was zone manager and I was managing multiple departments there.

“However, I just didn’t feel like there was a good work connection there and I didn’t like the industry that I was working for. I didn’t like how we handled customer service and I didn’t like a lot of the history of the company in general.”

After moving to the Champaign-Urbana area with her husband, she was still working at Walmart. But after listening to her mother-in-law’s advice to visit Common Ground, her direction in life changed, she said.

“The second day we were here, we came into Common Ground. We were shopping around and were like, ‘This is the place that we’ve been looking for forever!’” Braswell said.

So what sets Common Ground apart from other grocery stores or super markets?

According to their website, Common Ground is a “full service, cooperatively owned grocery store, which means [they’re] owned by members of the community who buy shares.”

The store specializes in natural, organic, local, gluten-free, and fair trade products.

Lara Orr, owner services coordinator at Common Ground, said the store provides “real food.”

“As somebody who really cares about what I’m ingesting for myself and my family, I find it very difficult to shop anywhere else because I don’t truly believe in what I’m getting,” Orr said.

“We have local suppliers; we’re supporting local businesses, small businesses. It’s just a totally different shopping experience. It’s not like you walk in, head down, get what you need kind of situation. It’s an engagement.”

Maria Ludeke, marketing manager at Common Ground, said that transparency is a big part of their store.

“We want to be able to provide the information that our customers want to know,” Ludeke said.

Customers can find details on how the food they purchase at Common Ground was raised or grown. The store also provides an Impact Report every year, which outlines what it has done to achieve its goals for that year.

Common Ground started in 1974 when a group of people living on campus felt a need to provide affordable, healthy food.

According to the Common Ground website, “a passionate group of students worked with neighborhood leaders and organized a cooperative food distribution system to provide healthy food to a low-income neighborhood in central Champaign.”

It started in a small, cramped, basement in the Illinois Disciples Foundation, but now, the store is looking to open a second location in Champaign by spring 2016.

Opening a second store isn’t easy, but both Orr and Ludeke said they believe Braswell is dedicated and more than capable of the task.

“The best characteristic of Satina is that she is super welcoming and empathetic to everyone, and I think that is a big part of this store and our brand as a community – we want to be open to everyone,” Ludeke said.

Braswell said of working at Common Ground, “It gives me a sense of community that I didn’t have before.”

She also says to anybody who hasn’t been to Common Ground: “Visit us. Just come in and experience it for yourself.”