Arizmendi is the shortened name of Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, a young priest who inspired and helped found the Mondragon Cooperatives in the Basque Country of Spain. Although worker cooperatives have functioned in most parts of the world since the 19th century, the success of the Mondragon Cooperatives has attracted worldwide attention. What started as one firm and roughly 25 people in 1956 is now a major international business with a work force of over 34,000, employed in some 100 worker-owned enterprises and affiliated organizations. These cooperatives continue to be inspired by Arizmendiarrieta’s belief that worker ownership and participation in the workplace should be an integral part of a just and democratic society. Through their financial, technical and organizational alliances, the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation helps develop new businesses, supports existing ones, and facilitates mutual support among member cooperatives. The name Arizmendi acknowledges his inspiration in our effort to expand democratically owned and operated workplaces.
Arizmendi bakeries were started with the inspiration and support of Berkeley’s The Cheese Board Collective which, along with their neighbor Chez Panisse, revolutionized thinking about food, proving that organic and gourmet could and should go together. Although we now regularly win awards for best Bay Area bakeries under the name Arizmendi, we know how much the credit and culture (including, literally, the rich sourdough culture) go back to The Cheese Board. The Cheese Board decided in 1995 to respond to the call from communities outside Berkeley for “a Cheese Board in my neighborhood!” and from communities for locally-rooted democratic jobs. They first helped launched an Arizmendi bakery in Oakland in 1997, and now there are six locally-owned bakeries (including the Cheese Board) in the Arizmendi Association.
For years, the Association has been getting requests from Marinites for “a Cheese Board in my neighborhood!” and, increasingly, “an Arizmendi in my neighborhood!” When we saw the sun-filled space on a beautiful public square in central San Rafael in 2010, we became committed with entering into the heart of San Rafael!