by: David Lester, General Manager
Yes, it’s true. A flurry of emails from other GMs across the country came across my computer on Sept. 19 asking if anyone had read the recent article in Fortune Magazine about the success of food co-ops. We hit the big time. CNN carried the story and suddenly a lot of people were paying attention. As a member of a Co-op, the news isn’t that shocking, but the reasons given in this article pertaining to our success in a down economy make it even more exciting to work at a food co-op.
In her article, The Rise of the Grocery Co-op, Beth Kowitt writes about one particular co-op, Park Slope Food Co-op in New York and its successes. It is not a typical food cooperative in many ways. But, its reasons for being successful are typical for co-ops across the country. Kowitt writes about Park Slope as being “responsive to the membership rather than to the companies trying to sell their products. Because co-ops don’t need shareholders or executives to back initiatives, they answer customer-member demands quickly and are often ahead of national trends.”
Our Co-op is performing very well during one of the worst recessions this country has seen. It is clear that we have a strong membership by the percentage of sales that we are able to track from member-owners. The staff and I welcome your suggestions, from products that members believe we should carry to customer service relations. Tell us what you are thinking by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in person with a customer suggestion card found at the Customer Service Desk.
The article also quotes Dave Gutknecht, editor of Cooperative Grocer, stating that “there are now 200 co-ops in startup mode, which is the largest number since the 1970s.” Currently, we are only one of three co-ops in the state of Iowa (Iowa City and Ames) but there are folks in the communities of Cedar Falls and Dubuque who are interested in starting consumer cooperatives. Cooperation among cooperatives is one of our seven cooperative principals and we look forward to helping these communities in any way we can to get their co-ops off the ground.
In a related matter, on Sept. 25, seven board members and seven staff members from the Co-op got together to have a strategic planning session. Driven by our Ends statements, a former board member, current board members, members of staff and I presented articles and data to show where we have been, where we are currently, and where we would like to be in the future. This was great collaborative work and the membership can be assured that we are all working very hard for you and building on the strengths of our co-op.