WHAT’S NEW AT THE CO-OP THIS YEAR?
The staff collective put a lot of plans on hold in 2013 as we worked to resolve an unbalanced budget and build our cash reserves. Therefore, as 2014 came looming closer and revenues continued to look rosier than at the start of the year, we dusted off our ideas of the past and started planning to do great projects again. So now it’s a new year and a new budget and all things are possible, right?
What is the Co-op going to focus on in 2014?
Yes, it’s still at the top of the list, believe it or not: this organization is hard at work to improve our existing stores and eventually increase shopping space and offerings to the membership that have been long desired and requested.
For this next year, we have many plans for our beloved westside store, such as replacing aging equipment and making floor plan changes that will help with crowding issues and even give us more space to offer new products and services, such as an amazing garden center!
We know that Olympians seem to like chickens and gardens and we think we can offer some great urban farming supplies that are currently hard to find locally. One small change that we think will make lots of folks in the neighborhood happy is the new offering of hot water for tea, yerba mate, etc., and freshly brewed coffee at the westside – organic and fair trade – all designed to make your mornings and afternoons that much peppier!
As the improvements and new offerings at the westside go on throughout the spring and summer, the expansion staff will also be hard at work doing groundwork for our eastside plans – to utilize the extra land there to build warehouse, and office and parking space and increase the retail space about 2,000 square feet. Our hopes are to get enough of the planning work done for the eastside during this next year to break ground in early 2015.
Meanwhile, you’ll see lots of other instore improvements as we work to replace old and outdated fixtures and equipment in preparation for new and remodeled space. Yes, it’s been a long time coming, but we feel secure knowing that we’re moving forward with finances in place to pursue our dreams in a sustainable way.
As most of you reading this know, the Co-op’s mission statement and goals are broad and varied and we have come up with many ideas over the years to increase the ways we meet goals such as to “assist in the development of local community resources” and “to foster a socially and economically egalitarian society.” The local food hub and food justice movement has had a lot of great networking and planning sessions and several Co-op staff members have participated in different events over the last several years. The outreach team is planning to continue to spread the message of what the Co-op has to offer and further our outreach to underserved communities.
Another big project is the rollout of our new Co-op website early in the year. We have been working with the innovative and creative folks at the Design Action Collective from the Bay area and are really looking forward to providing a site that will not only have a much better look and functionality but will also be a way to provide great resources and information sharing in our community, furthering the Co-op’s mission and reach.
Early in 2013, we purchased and installed a new point of sale system that has been a definite improvement for our register system and pricing programs as well. This new software also includes a way to integrate the membership database into the point of sale database. This could be an improvement for our membership system, which is resting in rather antiquated software and due for modernization. Our membership continues to grow, and we love that our community loves being involved in the Co-op! Other changes have been suggested or requested over the years that we want to explore with the membership before we make any movements, so keep your eyes peeled for member engagement events in spring and early summer that will help us explore the different questions that have been raised about memberships as well as discounts. Should we integrate our software? Should we revise how we ask members to carry and show cards? Is our discount system sustainable and\ meeting the goals for which it was created? We want to know what you think about this stuff and more.
Our staff collective is now over 80 people strong and we continue to explore how our staff systems should evolve to meet the changing needs of our organization.
We plan to spend some time in 2014 exploring different consensus models and discussing how our practice of consensus is working for us now and what kind of improvements we’d like to see. Staff benefits have been a hot topic of discussion over the last year, and that will continue to some extent, as we’ve worked hard to maintain our excellent health care plan in an environment of higher and higher medical costs handed down to the consumer.
These excellent benefits, as well as a caring and humane work environment, are just some of the things that keep us employees happy at the Co-op, and we find ourselves feeling at least a little optimistic, looking forward to a year full of change and fun projects, and improvements for everyone.
By Maureen Tobin, staff member