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2024 Star Women in Grocery Award Winner Julie Lustig (Q&A)

Store-Level Star
2024 star women
Julie Lustig

Julie Lustig

Store Team Leader
Whole Foods Market West Vancouver

How did you get your start in grocery?

I got started in the grocery business almost 18 years ago at the Capers [Community Markets] on Robson Street. The store was looking for a customer service manager and although it would be a challenge, I felt it a good fit from my previous experience. I had management experience in fast food and retail, but this new job would be a big jump in terms of team size and store volume. Not to mention I would need to learn how to recognize many produce items I had never cooked or eaten!  As time went on, I gained skills and experience in retailing and merchandizing both dry and perishable product. Today, I feel confident stepping into almost any role in the store; still need to work on my fish filleting skills.

What is the best part of your job?

What I enjoy best about my work are all the amazing people I’ve met and learned from as well as the variety of tasks and skills I’ve learnt over the years. I’ve formed some lifelong friendships, learned so much about food and how our food makes it from farmers and producers to our shelves. 

What is the proudest moment of your career, so far?

One of the main reasons I chose to work for Whole Foods Market and a reason I continue to be proud working here today is the company’s values around supporting community and the environment.  Over the years I’ve been able to work on a number of initiatives to improve our diversion programs and support different non-profit organizations. In the last couple of years, we’ve been able to fund an amazing non-profit in Bella Bella, B.C., the Qqs Projects Society.  This community has only one grocery store and receives only one delivery a week. The funding we’ve been able to provide through Whole Cities has been used to grow and support a number of different initiatives to make the community more food secure.  These initiatives range from community gardens, fruit tree harvesting and pruning, mushroom logs, as well as teaching traditional ways to harvest and preserve different foraged foods.

What is a challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to lead through has been organization change. Businesses need to evolve and grow to continue to be competitive and relevant. Throughout the many changes I’ve had to navigate over the years, my strategy has always been to focus on getting through the change together with our team members.  A saying often overheard in my store is “one store, one team”; no matter the challenge, if we work together, we’ll always come out on top.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I would describe my leadership style as collaborative and a bit goofy at times. Most of my store knows about my love for the colour purple, cats and unicorns.

How do you like to spend your time when not working?

When not working I enjoy spending time outdoors, skiing, camping, running, I’ve also dabbled in rock climbing and fishing, hoping to do more of both this summer. I very much enjoy cooking and have recently become pretty a proficient pasta maker. A nice home-cooked meal and a pint or two of craft beer is an ideal night in for me. I’m always game to try new experiences or learn new skills. So far this year, I’ve learned how to knit and will hopefully brew my own batch of beer before the year is out.

Click here for the full list of 2024 Star Women in Grocery award winners.

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