BY NANCY HILLER
In George Huntington’s family, community service is a tradition. Great-grandfather John Homer Huntington was a member of the city council that voted to build a new city hall—now the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center—in 1915. Grandfather George Earl Huntington was a Monroe County prosecutor. The next George Earl Huntington devoted his career to law enforcement; he served 20 years on the city’s police force—eight as chief—and then another 20 years as head of the Indiana University Police Department.
George Earl Huntington III, who goes simply by George, continues the family tradition, though in a less conventional way. Since 1994, he has been general manager of Bloomingfoods.
Bloomingfoods operates three food stores with an emphasis on local and organic products. It is a cooperative owned by almost 9,000 members, and, as such, it has different priorities from most other food establishments. Rather than maximizing profits, its mission is to provide goods and services that its member-owners want. Additionally, it aims to enrich the community in a number of ways: by collaborating with other organizations, such as the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market; by providing retail outlets for producers of local goods, from floral bouquets to tofu; and by sponsoring community events such as the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, the Trashion Refashion Show, and concerts in Bryan Park.
Huntington, 55, began his career at a convenience store at East 17th and North Dunn streets. After graduating from IU with a degree in history, he decided to stay in Bloomington rather than pursue a career elsewhere. “I like the rolling hills of southern Indiana,” he explains. “It just feels like home here.”
In 1981, when a friend asked him to take over as manager of Short Stop Food Mart on North Smith Road, he agreed. “I found I had a knack for running an establishment that met people’s needs,” he says. He added such items as fresh produce, whole bean coffee, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to the standard convenience-store lines, and the store thrived.
It was Huntington’s successful operation of that gas station-cum-quick mart that lead to the position at Bloomingfoods. Since he took over in 1994, the co-op added its third store (in the Near West Side neighborhood), and the total staff has grown from 30 to 225. Huntington claims modest credit for the co-op’s success, insisting that it reflects the hard work and creativity of dedicated employees. “I’m just fortunate that my value system aligns with my profession,” Huntington concludes. “I like doing things that make my community a better place.”