By Hippo (a hippopotamus) and Al (a bird)
Al and I have been following the adventures of Jenna Meier and The Glass Pantry, the first zero-waste store in Milwaukee, since before they opened last March. We have bought natural brushes and cleaning supplies, bulk food items and spices, and personal care products like shampoo and conditioner – most grown or created in our local area, all with no plastic packaging. We have used the super fast on-line delivery service, and we have shopped in the store which is full of interesting colors, textures and aromas. Jenna has managed to not only adapt to and survive recent challenges, she and The Glass Pantry have thrived. To mark The Glass Pantry’s one-year anniversary, Jenna has agreed to an interview with Hippo and Al.
H&A: The Glass Pantry has been in business for one year now! How has that first year gone for you?
JM: It has been great! Lots of changes but we are so excited to have our doors open and to be able to serve our community day after day.
H&A: What has been your greatest challenge so far?
JM: Online sales and delivery were never originally part of our plan but we built that part of our business REALLY quickly last March! And it’s been great! I love packing up people’s orders and bringing them to the doorstep. It feels like it has been a really helpful service for those who weren’t comfortable going out much but obviously still needed things like food and cleaning supplies. And convenient! I’m grateful to offer this service and won’t be stopping it anytime soon.
H&A: What has been most rewarding?
JM: Every day is rewarding! I especially love meeting like-minded people. I’m so inspired by the people in my community. We have been able to support each other and lift each other up and to me that feels like such a blessing. Every time someone comes in and fills up their containers with bulk items, I think about how each one of those items would have come in it’s own package if bought at a traditional store. It’s so rewarding to know that we are actively working together to reduce all that trash.
H&A: Has anything surprised you?
JM: Oh I’m constantly surprised but I think that’s just part of the entrepreneur’s journey. This business has had many a twist and turn but I have learned so much. I’m grateful for the journey. I hope I continue to be surprised and continue to grow and learn as this project progresses.
H&A: What changes, if any, do you foresee for the coming year?
JM: We will be expanding our hours of operation and hosting more pop-up events in our space. We will also be welcoming folks to fill their own containers soon. Over the last year, we have done all the filling but we know that is the fun part for so many people! Soon everyone will be able to do all the filling themselves.
H&A: One of our favorite quotes is “Life is ever creating its way into the future by engaging in new cooperative relationships,” by Fred Provenza. We noticed on your Facebook page that you have collaborations with many diverse groups and individual humans. Could you tell us about one or two of these?
JM: We partner with the Milwaukee Diaper Mission as a drop spot. We always have a large bin where people can donate reusable or disposable diaper or period supplies. We try to promote this diaper bank as much as possible because new parents and caregivers have enough to worry about…affording diapers should not be an added stressor. Supporting new parents is a passion of mine and I am grateful to be a part of the amazing work this organization does for our community.
We are also a pick up location for Farm Happy in Jackson, WI, an organic farm offering a variety of produce throughout the year. You can order through their website and pick up you order with us every Thursday. They also offer curated CSA boxes and these can be picked up with us as well. Just go to their website and pick a full share CSA, half share, or bi-weekly share – they have options for everyone.
We partner with many local businesses in offering their products in our shop. I very much prioritize local partnerships for products as much as possible. Supporting other local, sustainable small businesses reduces emissions in transporting products, allows for closed loop arrangements, and in many cases, allows for people to return the packaging for reuse. For instance, if you purchase soup, queso dip, bath salts, or candles from us, you can bring those containers back to us and we get them back to the maker to reuse.
H&A: Is there anything else you would like us to know?
I am thankful for each and every word of encouragement and for all the support over our first year. It has somehow both dragged a bit and also flown by. But life is uncertain and beautiful and precious and I hope to take all the lessons into the next year of business!
H&A: Thank you for all you are doing, Jenna!