Scratching the Surface of Brendan Kelly: More Than A Produce Manager


What quiet wonders lie tacitly
in the background story of those we see daily, at the Co-op?

Produce Manager Brendan Kelly is entirely at home in the Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC) Produce Department, among the local lettuces, organic onions, and enthusiastic employees and member-owners. Yet, there are so many additional and various settings in which he finds happiness, purpose, and fulfillment. Growing up amid Irish and Italian ancestral influences, Brendan was surrounded by a rich omnivorous culinary tradition. In addition, his parents were both in the military during a time of peace and stability. With the exception of the middle school years spent in Chicago, Brendan’s formal education was at Christian Brothers’ Academy in Albany and at La Salle University in Philadelphia, where he studied education and English literature. This seemingly mainstream education and upbringing was a path to politically-motivated veganism, eloquent outspokenness, activism – and some very distinctive recreational activities.

Without hesitation, Brendan says that he is vegan for political reasons rather than spiritual, ethical, or personal health reasons. He took the gradual path from pescatarian to vegetarian to vegan in his formative years and has been vegan his entire adult life. He recognizes it as a personal choice and has clearly found his apposite professional niche in the HWFC Produce Department. Regarding his place and purpose, Brendan says, “In a nation filled with bureaucracy and byzantine corporate structures, the Co-op affords us a great deal of autonomy, freedom of expression, and accommodations for working around our lives.”

Brendan always smiles when talking about work at the Co-op. His claim that there are 52 seasons in the Produce Department explains the nearly constant change that nature can bring to a business that ultimately depends on the weather. He is continuously and constantly making adjustments for crops that are early or delayed according to traditional expectations. One can’t help but notice that, as manager, Brendan has an easy efficiency and collegiality with staff and Member-Owners. He loves working with area farmers to fairly market their wares locally, so what about the rest of his life? What about the parts that the Co-op mission recognizes, appreciates, and accommodates?

If you happened to wander in the Fuze Box on Central Avenue, you might recognize the resident DJ, Brendan! He is heavily involved in the goth, industrial, and ebm (electronic body music) scene. When Brendan describes this, he exudes almost as much enthusiasm as he does when recounting the marketing and fair pricing of organic Brussels sprouts. Breaking the music scene down into terms that would be comprehensible to less-involved listeners, Brendan names bands we all may have listened to: goth bands like The Cure, so-called American pop band Devo, and industrial sounds like Nine Inch Nails. He calls some of it “post-punk”. When he isn’t at the Fuze Box, he is traveling around the Northeast to shows in various locations including New York City and – his favorite – Boston.

Brendan also dabbles in cosplay. That means he has developed stylized costumes uniquely for renaissance fairs and steampunk festivals. He regularly takes part in the New York Renaissance Faire and the Enchanted City Steampunk Faire in Troy.

On the serious side, Brendan is a devoted and dedicated activist, which is not surprising given his commitment to social justice at the Co-op and beyond. He took part in the Occupy Movement with Occupy Albany at Academy Park. He often takes part in political demonstrations locally and regionally.

Before he worked at the Co-op, Brendan started down a path consistent with his academic degree. He was a teacher at LaSalle School for Boys. For three years, he taught grades 6 and 7 in a self-contained classroom. When the Co-op job came along, he had no trouble making the switch. When asked where he will be in the future, Brendan wipes away any possible doubts: right here at the Co-op! He wants to continue to grow with HWFC. While maintaining the premier Produce Department in the area, he also aims to tell the story better, to educate people and acquaint them with their food sources in ways that build a better community.

Karla Guererri has been a Co-op Member-Owner for several years. She works in the field of education and lives in Troy.