from the Board of Directors and General Manager:
As a community-owned cooperative, our health and wellbeing are inextricably entwined with the health and wellbeing of our community. When people in our community thrive, our cooperative grows and thrives. If our community suffers – whether because of financial and economic uncertainty or natural disaster – our cooperative naturally feels the impact, too, as people spend less money.
Because of our state’s current political and economic upheaval, we are concerned about the wellbeing of our co-op community.
Although we don’t yet know the final outcome, we do expect significant changes in funding for everything from agricultural programs to food and shelter for our most vulnerable citizens. In the meantime, we know that many of our Owners and shoppers are already experiencing economic hardship and anxiety about the future.
As for the co-op, after 2018’s tremendous 14% sales growth, we are now experiencing declining sales (down 3% from last year). Although we are still a healthy, viable business, we are concerned about what the future may hold.
We are committed to supporting our local economy, fostering food security, and making healthy, nutritious food affordable and accessible to everyone. As a cooperative, we have built a business model that includes many initiatives to support these things, including:
• Preferred purchasing from local farmers and producers. Our purchasing priorities are 1. Fairbanks and surrounding area, 2. Alaska grown and produced, and 3. organic and natural products from the distributors that serve our national cooperative.
• Lend a Hand and Shop & Share. These programs give our shoppers an easy way to share their resources with community nonprofits and people in need.
• Donating surplus food. We avoid food waste by donating out-of-date useable food to Breadline’s Stone Soup Cafe and the Fairbanks Community Food Bank. We also offer compostable food waste to local farmers and gardeners.
• Co+op Basics. More than 100 of our organic and natural items in every department are affordably priced every day. These items have purple price tags and are priced to compete with store-branded products from other stores – and they’re often of higher quality.
What else can we do?
One concrete step we can take right now is to make it easier to become a Co-op Market Owner.
Making Ownership more accessible will allow more people to enjoy money-saving benefits, including monthly Owner Deals and, five times annually, 10% off one shopping trip. And increasing Ownership is good for the co-op: The more of us there are, the stronger we are and the more positive impact we can have on our local economy.
Effective immediately, we are reducing the required initial Ownership investment from $25 to $10. Full investment remains at $200. We will ask Owners who are not paid in full to make regular quarterly payments of at least $5 toward their full investment to be considered in good standing. Owners must remain in good standing to continue to receive discounts and vote in our board election.
We will be exploring other options in the future, and we welcome your suggestions. Please feel free to attend one of our regular monthly board meetings at 6 p.m. every 2nd Monday at the Literacy Council. Or email us at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can you do as an Owner?
• Continue to shop at the co-op. We know there are other choices out there, and as expected, Costco has taken a bite of our sales. We know that it may be easier and, for some specific items, less expensive to shop at a big box store. But our relationship is just that: a relationship. We cannot survive without you.
• Talk to your friends, neighbors and coworkers about your co-op. Many people still don’t know that we exist, or that you don’t have to be an Owner to shop here. People are much more likely to patronize a business when it is recommended by someone they know and trust. You can help us grow simply by talking about us.
• Get involved. Whatever your political persuasion, we encourage your civic engagement. We the people are the government, whether of the state or nation or even the co-op. Our government only works for people when people take action: Learn about the issues. Communicate with your representatives. Vote. Consider running for office or for a seat on our board.
Unlike large corporations, we don’t have outside investors who can inject temporary funding to tide us over in hard times. Also unlike those corporations, we are here to stay. We are committed to doing all we can not only to ride out these turbulent times, but to be a source of stability and a place where community can come together to solve problems. After all, it took powerful, sustained effort from many people to make the dream of a cooperative grocery store become a reality. The energy is there, and we hope you’ll help us harness it.
Thank you for your continuing support as we navigate these difficult times. We treasure your loyalty and confidence, and we know that difficulty often brings opportunity. As your representatives on the co-op’s board of directors and as your general manager, we commit to deliberate and careful actions to ensure that we maintain our role as your source of healthful foods. The wellbeing of our community members and the health of our business will always guide our decisions.
Board of Directors:
Madeline Patterson O’Dell