We Believe the Co-op is about Access,
Community and Impact
- by Tim Bartlett
Twelve years ago, when the Co-op started considering a move to Elmwood Avenue, the first thing we did was ask our owners what it should be like. We kept asking questions, discussing, debating, clarifying, and cogitating until we felt we had a vision that our owners could get behind. And you did. On the strength of that vision, with no site secured, our owners lent $260,000 to finance the move. The success of this loan drive worked like a very large domino, setting in motion every other success that came afterward until we opened for business at 807 Elmwood on July 27, 2005.
This April, when the Board set a goal of doubling our retail space by 2015, we knew it would be a challenge to write a vision that would be specific enough to energize the owners and broad enough to empower the Board to explore different options. This summer, we engaged with more than 100 owners around this goal and heard from many more via email, survey, and comments in the store. We heard a lot of excitement for reasons as varied as “more choices for me” to “showing that cooperation works” to “more capacity to do good.” There were also fears, including “it will become just another store” and “what if it puts the co-op out of business?”
The Board reflected on these excitements and fears, and on the studying that they had done over the past year, and have approved this DRAFT Shared Vision and Criteria for expanding the co-op (see sidebar). We’re pretty excited about it because we feel it captures our belief that the Co-op is about access, community and impact. There are a few points that may not jump right out at you:
* We plan to stick with what we know: selling natural foods in a neighborhood setting.
* We’re not moving out of the Elmwood Village. This is our core community. The co-op is an expression of this community, and we aren’t going anywhere.
* We will not jeopardize our Co-op for the sake of expansion. We will be bold but not risky.
* We feel compelled to do this work because we believe that the co-op model is a better way of doing business. In forty years, we would love to see a thriving co-op in every community that wants one (Lexington or otherwise).
Over the next two months, we want to hear from you. Do you feel energized by the shared vision? Which parts most of all? What does it mean to you in terms of concrete options? Are there any parts that you just can’t live with? Remember, this is a draft, and your feedback will make it stronger! Please email us anytime at email@example.com. These emails go to the entire Board. Or call me at 886-1036. Let us know if we are on the right track!
We have many wonderful treats planned for you this holiday season – outlined in the pages that follow. In this, our 40th Thanksgiving season, we celebrate the hard work, leadership and patronage of the owners who have sustained us through the years and for your leadership and dedication in the years to come. Thank you! We hope your holidays are healthy, happy, and delicious.
DRAFT Shared Vision
Our goal is to double the Co-op’s retail square footage by 2015 to create a thriving co-op that is…
* More Accessible. Neighborhood-based market(s) that are accessible to pedestrians, drivers, bussers & bikers. More people can use the Co-op.
• More Choices. Store(s) that are large enough to meet your needs, and small enough to meet your neighbors. More deli, bakery, meat & cheese. More fresh, high quality foods.
• More Impact. More purchases from local farmers & food producers. More co-op jobs. More classes, films & education. Lowered food costs through increased buying power & efficiency. Lowered environmental footprint through sustainable design & systems.
• More Community. A community hub. Demonstrates the power of co-operative ownership. Increased opportunities for owners to participate in the Co-op.
DRAFT Criteria: Our project must…
* Have a transparent, participatory process and the support of our owners.
* Make the Co-op stronger
o Have benefits that outweigh the risks assumed.
o Allow us to achieve our mission & shared vision.
o Put the co-op in a strong position to thrive in an increasingly competitive market.
* Be feasible
o Market. The market will support it.
o Financial. We can leverage the financing to make it successful at rates that are affordable.
o Design. The space allows for efficient & effective service to owners.
o Internal Readiness. The Co-op has the necessary skills, knowledge, leadership and capacity to be successful.