Why Jared Blustein is a 2021 Top 40 Under 40: Jared Blustein is making Calgary a more equitable city through his cooperatively run restaurant and his social-justice work.
Jared Blustein’s measure of success puts people first. He’s co-founder of The Allium, a plant-based restaurant structured as a worker cooperative, and program manager of The Arusha Centre, an organization that focuses on social, economic and environmental issues.
For The Allium, Blustein created a non-hierarchical structure. Management is decentralized and workers are paid a living wage atop dividends on profit. Blustein can typically be found bartending, cooking or doing dishes, recruiting new members and coaching other businesses interested in the Allium model. For two years running, the restaurant has turned a profit in an industry where one in five fail within the first year.
Blustein’s mission to create a more equitable society includes his work at the non-profit Arusha Centre. He manages the Open Street Events program and the Calgary Dollars affordable housing program — an offshoot of the Calgary Dollars complementary currency. Open Streets is all about events that reclaim the public realm, with a focus on green energy. The Calgary Dollars affordable housing program allows participants to earn part of their rent through volunteerism. From 2018 to summer 2021, partner agencies accepted $50,957 in Calgary Dollars for rent acceptance, with food-access cause Fresh Routes also accepting more than $5,480 Calgary Dollars for groceries since March 2019.
Worker co-ops and non-profit models aren’t novel, but Blustein’s have a contemporary twist. At The Allium, he helped implement flexible membership options, virtual content and retail offerings as a secondary revenue stream. He also helped Arusha pivot to the virtual space. “I firmly believe that by creating greater wealth, greater opportunities, greater empowerment for the mass of people — working class people — we start to create a stronger, more empowered, more uplifted, happier society,” he says.
“I would like to thank my family, friends and various mentors, both academic and otherwise.” – Jared Blustein