INFRA Blogs

Celebrations and Anniversaries

  

This quarter has been an incredible period of growth and celebration for our INFRA staff. Join us in welcoming new staff members and recognizing employee milestones. We couldn't do what we do without such a dedicated and driven team. 

Work Anniversaries 

Matt Olson, Fresh Program Manager – 5 years 

Valerie Agnew, Member Business Advisor – 2 years 

Chris Miles, Member Business Advisor – 2 years  

Kate Fletcher, Senior Category Manager – 14 years  

Pat Rector, Member Business Advisor – 10 years 

Danelle Rydel, VP Member Success – 7 years 

Chris Sorensen, Promotions Program Manager – 2 years 

Kim Route, Category Manager – 2 years 

Michele Lamppa, Director of People & Culture – 3 years 

Nicholas Helms, Technology Support Specialist – 1 year 

Angela Bozo, Director of Member Programs – 2 years 

Hope Tipton, Supply Agreement Lead – 1 year 

  

New Staff 

Ryan Day 

Hey there! I’m so excited to be joining the INFRA team as Insights Program Manager. Bringing 6 years of CPG experience in business development, category management, and marketing, I hope to use my ability to interpret and synthesize data to help craft an impactful insights program for our wonderful INFRA Members.  

When I first broke into the CPG industry, I quickly developed a passion for working with natural, better for you, and better for the planet brands. Being able to help rethink and reshape food systems from the inside out has turned into a calling that I just can’t shake. With INFRA, I love that I’ll get the opportunity to help members grow their reach within their local communities and help support the promotion of sustainable, mission-driven products within each store.  

On most weekends, you can find me spending time with my family, working on DIY projects around the house, or playing softball, pickleball, or spikeball. I love staying active and trying new things, including finding local stores/restaurants in my community and sharing them with friends. I can’t wait to begin my journey at INFRA, so cheers to new beginnings! 

  

Madeleine Ware 

Hello! I’m thrilled to be joining the INFRA team as a Marketing & Communications Specialist. I bring two years of social media management, content creation, and copywriting experience to this role, and I hope to use these skills to expand upon and strengthen INFRA’s social media presence and contribute to internal and external marketing efforts. 

My end goal has always been working at a mission-aligned and sustainability-minded organization, and INFRA truly embodies those values. I grew up in a family that cares deeply about supporting local grocers and protecting the planet, and I always knew that I wanted to live out those values in every aspect of my life, career included!  

Outside of work, you can find me going for a long walk around the Southeast Minneapolis neighborhood, trying out a new recipe, or showing off at a local karaoke bar (once a theater nerd, always a theater nerd). I can’t wait to help this team take on new challenges as it continues to expand onwards and upwards!  

Débora Brittes 

Hello INFRA community! I'm Débora Brittes, your new Reporting Analyst, and I couldn't be more excited to join this fantastic team. I'm committed to leveraging my analytical and creative skills to further empower independent natural food retailers. I deeply resonate with INFRA's mission of promoting good food and sustainable choices. 

Coming from a background in the new energy sector, I've seen firsthand the positive impact that mission-driven businesses can have on our world. I'm excited to apply my experiences in data analysis and strategy to deliver valuable insights that will benefit our members and help them thrive in the natural food retail landscape. 

On a personal note, I grew up in Brazil, and I am loving exploring a new and different culture! I'm an avid supporter of sustainable living and my favorite organic product has to be locally sourced honey. Its unique flavors capture the essence of the regions and remind me of the importance of supporting local producers. I'm looking forward to collaborating with the INFRA community and contributing to our collective journey towards a healthier, more sustainable future.

   

Hailey Craig 

Hello, everyone! I am beyond excited to be joining the INFRA team as an Events and Education Specialist on the Member Programs team! I am a recent college graduate and am excited to further my professional career with such an admirable and authentic organization. I have extensive experience working in food service and retail, so I bring with me a myriad of firsthand knowledge of the industry and the importance of holistic approaches to small businesses and retail. I also bring with me experience working in the nonprofit sector where I gained extensive experience in time management, crisis management, and working on a team.  

I personally have always had a connection to natural foods, cooking, baking, and generally anything food related! On the weekends, you can find me baking sourdough and tackling detailed dutch oven recipes. I grew up in a household with a very traditional “meat and potatoes” style of diet, but always found myself connected to the local natural food stores in my area and going out of my way to learn about local foods and organic options. I spent 4 years working at a small Gluten-Free bakery in my college years, where I learned all about the gluten-free world and about the alternative foods industry.  

I grew up in a very small town in Northern Minnesota called Menahga (Shout out to The Clean Plate, INFRA’s only member in Menahga!). While I adore the small-town lifestyle, especially the lakes and natural wonders, I enjoy my time now living in South Minneapolis and being a part of the city life. Growing up in a small town where local farmers and foods are held and cherished so closely really deepened my love for local agriculture and the importance of shopping local! I love to support local Minneapolis businesses and spend a lot of my free time out at local restaurants, coffee shops, etc. 

Steven Kovach

Hello! Having worked with INFRA for over ten years as a retailer, I'm very excited to be working on the INFRA team and for its members. I recently joined the Member Success Team as a Promotions & Merchandising Advisory Specialist where I hope to utilize my former store management and promotions planning experiences to develop solutions for members. 

I started working in natural foods 16 years ago filling bulk bins, not aware that I was going to love working in this industry. What draws me to INFRA and Independent Natural Retailers is their shared commitment to building communities through food. Nutritious and sustainable foods shouldn’t be perceived as a luxury for a few but as a necessity for everyone. I believe Independent Natural Retailers are best equipped to change that narrative by breaking down barriers hindering strong local food systems. It’s a big challenge, but one I’m happy to be a part of.  

I love to keep busy, so when I’m not working, I’m working. I currently serve as the City Treasurer for Middletown, CT and by the time this is published, I’ll hopefully have won my election for Common Council. When I have free time, you can find me playing DnD with friends, doing anything Star Wars related, or out supporting my partner at their local drag shows! 

John Gengel

Hello! I am so excited to be joining the INFRA team as a Promotions and Merchandising Advisory Specialist. With over 23 years of experience in the natural and organic foods industry, I am thrilled with the opportunity to help independent retailers across the country thrive in their communities!

I “grew up” in the natural foods space under the tutelage of many great leaders at Whole Foods Market. After 16 years at Whole Foods, I spread my wings and tried a few different opportunities in the independent grocery space as well as the startup world all the while sticking to natural and organic food. 

Although I grew up in New York State, I have been living in Colorado for the last 23 years so at this point I’m not sure where I’m really from. My wife Alli and I have two Schnoodle pups (Schnauzer/Poodle) and enjoy all of the outdoor activities Colorado has to offer. We love good food, nutrition, and spending time spoiling our dogs. Watching and playing live music is very near and dear to my heart. Every year our summer schedule of shows and festivals is always fun to plan. Red Rocks and Planet Bluegrass are two of our favorite venues.

Daniel Yang

Hello. I am so thrilled to be joining INFRA's team as a SharePoint Administrator. I bring with me over five years of experience in IT infrastructure support, cloud technology, and SharePoint administration. I have supported various teams throughout my career, from stakeholders with no technical background to application developers who are a little more tech savvy. My goal as a SharePoint Administrator is to utilize my technical skills combined with my experience in supporting various teams to develop adaptable solutions for INFRA's end users. 

I grew up in a neighborhood that didn't have any natural food retailers, most of the grocery stores around only carried processed food. However, my parents didn't let that stop them from feeding the family with fresh and organic food. Most kids grew up having a playground in their back yard, I had a huge garden along with livestock. During my childhood I was able to enjoy healthy meals made from fresh and natural food because of my parents hard work and determination. It brings me joy to know that there are now natural food retailers in the city where I grew up and one of them happens to be an INFRA member. I'm delighted to be able to support INFRA's mission-driven team in leading the movement to empower natural food retailers so they can focus on feeding their communities with fresh and natural food. 

I was born and raised in Wisconsin, so I am a Packers/Badgers/Bucks/Brewers fan. When I'm not working, I spend most of my time going on adventures with my wife and our puppy (Roger, Golden Retriever). My little family of three moved to White Bear Lake, MN in 2021 and we enjoy kayaking and fishing on the many lakes that surrounds our neighborhood.

  

Congrats on Your Wedding, Rayna! 

Special congratulations to our Member Implementation Specialist, Rayna Kittredge, on her wedding in late September! We love celebrating our team members. 

 

 

Congrats on the New Baby, Chris!

Congratulations to our Category Manager Chris Madden on the new addition to his family! We are so excited for you!  

Join Our Team

As you can see, the capabilities of the INFRA team keep growing to provide the best service to our members! We're currently seeking talented, mission-driven folks to join us! Do you know someone skilled in technology or merchandising? We love referrals - click here to learn more and view open positions! 


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