GREAT RIVER CO-OP SEEKS PROJECT MANAGER. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.
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About 30 people attended the Great River Co-op’s second annual meeting Thursday evening, April 25, at the Congregational church in Walpole. Member-owners reviewed the co-op’s accomplishments over the previous 12 months, learned about future plans, and snacked on Sawyer's Artisanal Cheese, made in Walpole, and spiced coffee cake from McGuire’s Bakery in Alstead.
Robert Kasper, an attorney in Walpole, has been elected to a three-year term as a member of the co-op’s board of directors. Rob was a founding member of the co-op and the board welcomes him, his commitment, and his energy back to the co-op's leadership.
Kim Mastrianni, the board’s president welcomed the group. Board member Matt Andrus, co-owner of the Townspeed company in North Walpole, reviewed the co-op’s accomplishments over the past year:
John Lippman, vice president of the board, thanked people who have been crucial to the co-op’s progress but who now are stepping aside to meet the increased demands of their professional lives: board members Sally Greene, who also has been the board’s secretary, and Steve Fortier, who was the board’s first president; and Holly Gowdy, the co-op’s project manager.
Kim outlined the co-op’s major plans for the coming months:
Kim also noted that the co-op is reaching a point where more of us will need to be involved in planning the store, raising capital, and recruiting additional member-owners. Working groups are being formed around operations (planning the store and finances); event planning; fund-raising; and member engagement. Anyone with expertise or interest in these areas and able and willing to invest a few hours in moving the co-op forward can contact Ben Daviss at 603-445-2200 or email@example.com.
Ben reported on a conversation he had on April 25 with Betsy Black, the regional representative of the Cooperative Development Fund. The fund is a lender that specializes in supporting food co-ops, including those that are new. Betsy says that when reviewing a loan application, the fund looks at the usual things – financial projections, business plans, and so on. But it also pays special attention to the amount of volunteer time and financial support that members have invested in the co-op. Therefore, it’s crucial to the co-op’s future that members participate in the fund-raising campaign and volunteer time to do the necessary work in the months ahead.
If you visited Keene's co-op during its opening or saw the front-page article in the Keene Sentinel, you know the kind of excitement and community spirit that a
co-op creates. Now it's our turn to bring that energy to the Great Falls area.
The co-op in Keene opened successfully because hundreds of people supported it financially and with their time and effort. If the Great River Co-op is to be that engine of community spirit, jobs, and economic vitality in our region, the co-op needs its members to contribute their energy to make it happen here.
It takes a village (or, in our case, many villages) to make a co-op. Come to the annual meeting on April 25 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Congregational church on the square in Walpole and learn what we need to do together next.
Holly Gowdy’s energy, expertise, and network of personal relationships have been instrumental in establishing a stronger connection with area farmers and local producers over the last several months. This was the charge given to Holly when she accepted the position of Great River Co-op's Project Manager last fall. The co-op owes her a deep debt of gratitude for her outstanding efforts in this regard.
As the co-op shifts its energy and focus to the next phases of development, the board of directors has recognized the need for expertise in community organizing, planning, and fundraising. As a result, Holly has made the decision to relinquish her Project Manager position. The board is pleased that she plans to stay actively involved and will continue to assist with organizing events and furthering our relationships with area producers. Thank you, Holly!
With this change comes an opportunity to hire the co-op's next Project Manager. The ideal candidate for the redefined position will have experience in successful fundraising, leadership and community organizing. Details of the Project Manager position are posted here and are available by calling Ben at 603-445-2200 or by sending a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The co-op also has positions open on its working committees in operations and store planning, events, community outreach, and fund-raising. If you can spare a few hours a month and enjoy making things happen, call Ben at 603-445-2200 or send a request to email@example.com and we’ll contact you with details.
in the fall of 2012, the Great River Co-op conducted a survey of its members and other residents of our region and asked people to describe their shopping habits and their goals for a community-owned store that would feature locally-grown and -prepared foods. A total of 144 people responded and the highlights of what they reported are below. In the weeks ahead, the co-op’s board of directors will be sharing practical ideas of ways in which we all can work together to make the co-op a reality.
The co-op’s board of directors offers a big “thank you” to former co-op board member Barbara Jackson of the Walpole-based Searchlight Research firm
for designing and conducting the survey for us.
The majority of the survey’s respondents have a desire for ready access to foods grown or produced in the Great Falls area. Co-op members are ‘early adopters’ of new ideas and most are not looking for a store where they can buy all of their groceries, but rather a store that offers high quality and local products for a reasonable price.
Among the people who responded to the survey:
97% think it’s important or very important to support “a community-driven, community-owned store”;
94% of respondents say that it’s important or very important to them to have access to locally grown produce;
82% say that it’s important or very important to them to have access to locally grown meats;
75% now purchase locally-grown organic foods;
75% of respondents now “go out of their way” to purchase locally-grown foods;
92% are willing to “give up the convenience of shopping at a single store” to obtain local foods;
89% agree or somewhat agree that “nutritional value is more important than price” when making food shopping decisions;
89% agree or somewhat agree that “as much as possible, I shop at locally-owned retailers".
The survey also indicates that most who responded are discerning shoppers with high expectations for the products they buy and the stores they frequent. Let’s join forces to create a place that embodies those values. Your board of volunteer directors will have more for you soon.
At a meeting on September 4, the co-op’s members who were there encouraged the board to continue to explore the possibility of opening a small store in a portion of the building on Route 12 that houses the Walpole Scoop Shop. The building is owned by Tedd Benson and his company, Bensonwood Homes.
The small space would be organized as a consignment store for local produce and food products. The arrangement benefits both farmers and the co-op: producers would keep more of the proceeds from the sale of their goods and the co-op wouldn’t need to invest working capital to purchase inventory and mark it up for sale at a higher price.
As the board worked deeper into the details of that opportunity, however, it became apparent that this small store would have a difficult time paying a fair wage to an appropriately sized staff while remaining profitable. Because the board is obligated to be a responsible steward of the co-op’s present and future funds, and because the co-op is committed to paying a livable wage to good workers, the conflicting demands seemed irreconcilable.
As Tedd Benson and Kim Mastrianni, your board president, discussed the situation, they arrived at an alternative. Tedd has offered to build a new, expandable building for the co-op across the driveway from the scoop shop. The new store, designed specifically for our co-op, would be larger than the 800 square feet available in the scoop shop’s building, yet smaller than the 6,000-square-foot store contemplated by our market consultant – a project that could take the co-op several years to arrange funding for. Now, depending on member-owners’ willingness to invest financially in this opportunity, our brand new store could be open before next fall.
Just as important, the new store would be designed for expansion: when the co-op is ready to grow into additional space, the store could readily be expanded to meet our needs. Our investment in this store is a direct investment in the larger, 6,000-square-foot store that is our ultimate goal; in contrast, a portion of our investment in the 800-square-foot space in the scoop shop building would have been temporary. Other than equipment that could be moved, any building improvements made by the co-op would be left behind when we moved to a larger space.
The additional size will allow us to carry a larger range of goods, attract more shoppers, achieve higher sales and better cash flow, and increase the store’s chances of being profitable sooner. At the same time, the co-op could keep the consignment structure that has attracted many of our area’s farmers during our discussion of the smaller space in the scoop shop building.
This new alternative balances the need to achieve greater sales and profitability, have an adequate staff, require a relatively low start-up investment, and be achievable soon – all while advancing the co-op toward its goal of opening a full-line store. For these reasons, the board is now pursuing this idea with Tedd and developing a financial analysis of the new store.
Please send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post them. Also, If you have particular features, departments, or kinds of products you'd like to see included in the first phase of the store, please e-mail your suggestions and ideas to email@example.com. We'll post them and your ideas will guide the board as this preliminary design phase gets under way.
Also, for this excellent new opportunity to become a reality, we all need to step up. The co-op will need loans and financial gifts from its member-owners. Member-owners also will need to serve on work teams focused on planning, finance, and store policies and our board of directors needs additional members. If you truly want a co-op in our community, you need to act and to commit a portion of your time and resources to the effort.
If we work together – embodying a co-operative spirit – the Great River Co-op will become a key resource for health, farmers, food producers, and community in our area.