Dottie’s Discount Foods has been a staple of our community for over ten years. It has had its ups and downs but always delivered as a small, welcoming, community grocery store to our downtown. We have seen many iterations of the store from its start as a corner in the Co-op in the old Brookside plaza store. As the Co-op grew, so did Dottie’s, branching out to its own location on Flat St. Some of you may remember how invaluable Dottie’s was when the Main Street bridge was out. With Dottie’s expansion, varying product lines came and went, from our BFC -made sausages to salvaged products to inexpensive conventional product lines like Shur Fine and Food Club products. Many downtown residents came to rely on Dottie’s very inexpensive bread, milk, and eggs. Over the past few years, however, Dottie’s has experienced dwindling sales. Maybe it was Wal-mart’s expansion or ALDI’s new presence in Brattleboro. Perhaps it became more difficult at times to acquire enticing salvage products, or maybe our community changed. In an effort to be more of a service to the community we dropped prices even more, we shifted hours and upgraded our merchandising. But despite our efforts, after three years of lost revenue we are no longer able to keep the store open. In thinking about what to do, we considered the long-term trends in our business, in our community, and now, concern about the social and economic results of this pandemic.
So, we made a very tough decision. We announced this decision to our customers and shareholders in August and stated that we would be bringing Dottie’s into the Co-op as a consolidation. We are currently working on adding more low-priced items in certain areas such as eggs, milk, and bread for the Dottie’s shopper. We will offer more value-priced Food Club options and continue to have a salvage section, as long as we can continue to access those items. For some current Dottie’s customers, this may not be enough to shop in the Co-op. For others, our plans may meet their needs. In sum, we care about our community; we want to invite everyone to visit the Co-op and explore how our food is both nutritious and reasonably priced.
We welcome you to shop the Co-op and see what it offers. We have a phenomenal staff, we have great food, and we very much want to serve our community. At our Annual Meeting we will be continuing a dialogue that we have been having for some time: “How do we become a more welcoming community marketplace?” Breakout sessions will be offered so that Shareholder attendees can more easily share their perspective, chat together, and share ideas. We know we need to do more. We are committed to do better for those who are marginalized in our community. We are also committed to increase our focus on customer service to be even more outstanding. Our work with the Restorative Justice center will continue. We will broaden our reach by engaging even more with Groundworks Collaborative. Currently we are in talks with many local organizations that have BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) leadership to see how we can grow, train our staff and try out new ideas to grow as a welcoming community marketplace. As a reminder, we are owned by over 8,000 community members. We are incorporated in the State of Vermont as a Cooperative and we are not owned by any national organizations nor multi-national corporations. We keep close to 40% of all revenue invested back in our community. We are you, and you are us. Yes, Dottie’s is being transitioned to inside the Co-op, but we welcome you to witness our progress as we serve more people across this community.
Here is the article from our August Food for Thought that is our initial announcement about Dottie’s Discount Foods.