The relationship that you as our owners have to our retail operation is quite different from that between customers and other stores, in so many ways. We have a large staff working on your behalf to bring you the products and services that you need, in a manner that is consistent with how humans shop in retail stores these days. But the details of what we do are still just beyond what you experience in your shopping trips, and I believe that we all gain from a better understanding of how our individual actions impact things like prices on the shelves and profits at the end of a fiscal year.
In the early days of our Co-op, around 1975, folks used to gather to place orders, then meet to split up cases, and come together to unload produce picked up from Boston Market. It was about accessing food that those friends and neighbors wanted and needed, but it was also about collaboration, and having fun along the way. In our world today, we live lives that don’t include too much time (or, depending on your energy level, desire) for this type of hard work, but the collaborative joy we experienced then can be felt in multiple ways today. Sometimes, it’s a celebratory event that only requires your attendance.
It seemed as though summer would never arrive this year, least of all spring. But I noticed how we rejoiced in the smallest of signs as our world thawed out, from peepers to colors. Regardless of the length of winter’s release, every April, our store and town explode in crazily festooned pinwheels, symbols of support for our friends over at Kids Playce. Every spring, like so many cycles, our intentional entanglement with our community partners is announced like a blare of trumpets from these fun wind-driven splashes of color.
I just returned from a national co-op meeting that included a presentation by Ari Weinzweig, one of the founders of Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, MI, from whom we have adopted a few business practices, including customer service training and open book management. He’s been thinking a lot about how we take actions based on our beliefs, a lesson that is all around us lately. Further, he thinks that focusing on positive beliefs engenders positive action, and that there is a chain reaction to this approach.
Much has been said about how we as human beings have been communicating with each other, especially when we disagree. There is plenty to be grateful for, in the discourse that is happening around a very problematic cultural fabric we live in and contribute to—namely, that we are finally beginning, very slowly and painfully, to grapple with differences. But the impulse to
In recent conversations, I have referred multiple times to an article that I read last fall, and its conclusions never fail to surprise the listeners. In a Harvard Business Review article,1 Eddie Yoon observed some consumer trends over a fifteen-year period, which have direct impact on how the grocery industry interacts with its customers—or rather, how the customers interact with the industry.
We are asking you to take some extra time this month to give us feedback. Not a lot of time, mind you, and although we have already heard from many of you about recent changes, this will be a more holistic survey that we conduct every couple of years to check in on your view of the entire range of Co-op activity. The results of our survey certainly inform us about things, but also get aggregated with
At the turn of the millennium, the leadership of our Co-op, both on the board and on the management team, worked on understanding where our business could make changes in order to not only reduce its footprint, but actually to work towards becoming “a regenerative business that has a net positive environmental impact.” This became our fourth Ends policy. We have reported on the sales of local products in our store, which—due to how much of it we sell—clearly has some effect on our overall impact. These products clearly burn
I have previously referred to the process that our board uses to measure how well we are achieving our goals at nearly every board meeting. As the one charged with the execution of these goals, this methodology forces me to quantify our success. Few assessments are more important than monitoring the overarching “Ends” policies, which hopefully you reviewed and commented on at our annual meeting last month. These policies are quite extensive in their scope, and challenging to encapsulate in an annual report, but reviewing the data is fascinating and useful.
For some of us, fall brings sports events worth watching, along with harvests and leaves. I too enjoy a few hours spent watching amazing athletes banding together in pursuit of championships. That’s why I happened to see a TV commercial for a very large national chain touting its support of nutrition in the school system, through the employ of chefs and the education of providers in the benefits of good, healthy eating for our youth.
I received a wide spectrum of comments on last month’s column. Some were shocked—they had no idea how much we have been swept into the struggles that confront so many in our town. Others, who are more aware of this, were largely positive about shining a light on the situation. I take heart in the mostly positive reactions, and hope that you who have read this and thought more deeply about it share
I have been thinking about balance lately. This concept governs so much of what we do here at the Co-op, where we try to be true to our values, while respecting boundaries of economic, social, and individual realities. Last month, I reported on the process of negotiating a contract that respects and supports our staff, while keeping prices reasonable and paying producers fairly. These days, we have had to think about the challenges of being in business as a