Who We Are
Do you ever wonder who owns your local natural foods store? Aria and Dario (pictured left) co-own Aptos Natural Foods, which has been locally owned in Aptos since 1989. I asked Aria and Dario a few questions about their relationship and their vision for the store. Here is what I learned:
Dario is from Southern California. He originally came to Santa Cruz in the early 1980's to attend UCSC. Through his friends at school, Dario learned about the Kresge Food Co-op on campus. He became involved with the co-op, eventually becoming the manager. He left school at one point to travel the world, then returned to finish his degree and work at the Food Bin/Herb Room (where he was store manager for twenty-five years).
Aria is from the Southeast and attended the University of South Carolina. He originally moved to California on a whim in search of the California dream. Before moving to California, he had experience managing an independent movie theater in Pittsburgh, PA, but was also interested in veganism and natural foods after taking a Food Ethics class in college. Aria and Dario's shared focus on ethical considerations and right living is evident in Aptos Natural Foods leadership today.
Dario and Aria met in 2012 when Aria worked at the Food Bin/Herb Room under Dario's leadership. Dario and Aria bonded over their shared interest in music, natural foods, and social responsibility. Aria started promoting and coordinating social media for Dario's psychedelic rock band, Transporter. Aria himself is a singer/songwriter but more recently is the front man in a rock band called Resist This! Dario finished his degree in the History of Religion at UC Santa Cruz, and Aria earned his degree in Philosophy at the University of South Carolina.
Dario became General Manager of Aptos Natural Foods in 2012, while still at the Food Bin. Aria worked for Dario first at the Food Bin and then at Aptos Natural Foods, where he was eventually promoted to Grocery Manager. In 2015, Dario made the decision to purchase Aptos Natural Foods when the opportunity became available. Aria was promoted to General Manager shortly after.
Together, Dario and Aria started to tackle major improvements in the store. First they put in all new floors and shelving. Now, they are still in the process of replacing the cold cases one by one. Additionally, they have made major changes to how they decide what they sell. In 2017, years ago, Aria attended a seminar at Expo West, one of the largest natural foods convention in the world. He learned from Dean of Dean's Natural Foods in New Jersey, that when Dean is considering bringing in a new company, he first does some research to make sure that company is GMO free. Aria decided to take this principle to the next level, and actually discontinue any products made by companies who use GMOs. While this meant that the store had to let go of some big sellers, most of our shoppers appreciate the integrity and effort that goes into our decision-making process once they become aware of it.
In 2018, Dario decided to give Aria the opportunity to buy into the store and become part owner. Aria gratefully accepted the opportunity, and the challenge. Now they have a stronger partnership and share a deeper investment in the store. Their vision is to support small local business and carry products made by companies who demonstrate a high degree of integrity.
As one of our colleagues expresses it, "they walk the talk." He went on to say that it's good to work for people who are trustworthy, authentic, and use their energy to create a good atmosphere for the employees and customers.
Thank you for being part of our natural foods and wellness community. :)