The 1980s and 1990s at old railway warehouses were especially colorful times. Then the business was really non-hierarchical, work shifts were made by whoever had the feeling to do it, and ideas were put into action the next day if possible. Everything was made with a bursting world-healing DIY attitude.
Luckily, bigger catastrophes and bankruptcies were avoided and there was some luck in the game. Work seemed like a fun play and the customers were like a big family. Sometimes even some homeless people who spent their nights at the other parts of the old railway warehouses shared a morning coffee and bread with the staff - being part of the extended family. The world was healed by one action at the time, and the spirit was that everyone can be a part of the change.
Ruohonjuuri full of action
Once the old railway warehouse still existed, it was a living and active place for underground culture and Ruohonjuuri was a key part of it. One of the best memories is the human-made hand-to-hand chain that went around the warehouse trying to protect it from demolition plans- the community and solidarity was strong.
Different events have been in the center of Ruohonjuuri since the beginning. During the years there has been vegan ham bingo, single`s nights…one time in the spring happening there was a band playing outside while the people were running around the warehouse wearing bumblebee hats. One time two French tourists were accidentally locked into a store when it was closing time. Luckily they did not have to break out from the store and the incident was solved without help from the police.
When Ruohonjuuri was operating from an old railway warehouse, it was also doing wholesale trade with recycled paper that was ordered from Germany. Of course, no one of the employees knew how to speak German so the orders were made always a bit with the eyes closed. Once again there was some luck in the game and mostly the orders were full of recycled paper products that could be sold in the store.
Moving from warehouse to Kamppi was a game-changer
The last week in the old warehouse store was full of work, everything that was piled during the years needed packing and organizing. -On the last day we organized a sale where everything that was left was sold half price. I was going to do some shopping myself also but when I entered the store I saw the huge line that was lingering from front to the very farthest back corner of the store. At that moment my day off came a workday and I decided to stay and help Johanna at the store, Says Mari who has worked in Ruohonjuuri for 20 years already.
It was Mari's job to go through all the old folders and bookkeeping files starting from the very first year 1982 and decide which ones to save and which ones not. The papers were stored at the attic of the old warehouse and there also lived a big pigeon population who had left its mark on the papers. The job was messy but also massive and when it was done, the warehouse was burned down.
- The former CEO Arto was on leave of absence at the time and was watching the fire from tv news thinking so that is how Mari decided to get rid of the old bookkeeping folders, Mari grins.
When moving to the new location to Kamppi at Salomoninkatu the customer flow extended quickly and the sales were bigger than ever. This new commercial way of thing wasn't everyone's cup of tea- old hippie habits stayed strong and many were confused by the new faster work environment.
One of the most astonishing things was when Dalai Lama entered the store and bought himself a pair of hemp shoes. At that time Ruohonjuuri was importing hemp fabric clothes but it was stopped because of the big percentage that from it was stolen.
From Info kiosk to a real store
In the early days of Ruohonjuuri's old warehouse store, there was sold a lot of products from developing countries, and people from outside of Helsinki came to see and wonder. Sometimes, the store felt more like an eco info counter than a relevant place to do your shopping.
At some point, Ruohonjuuri started to increase the customer service quality and sales but for some hippie souls selling something was a real turn-off, it was challenging to learn how to see the world from a customer perspective.
-During the years we have learned together that in Ruohonjuuri we make the world a better place through everyday work, one better item at a time, over ten years in Ruohonjuuri worked as the sales and customer service manager Tuulia is saying.