As week four of my tenure at the Brattleboro Food Coop comes to a close, the word ‘emergence’ comes to mind. Emergence is the process of coming into view or being after being concealed. It is spring, a season of rebirth and renewal, so it seems only fitting that our community is also cautiously emerging as the long ‘winter’ of the pandemic begins to subside. While there are still signs of the passing winter and the threat of a new variant remains present, the signs of spring and life beyond COVID are beginning to take shape. Brattleboro and our surrounding communities are welcoming back public and outdoor events. Many partners are reaching back out to the Co-op for support and engagement as dormant activities and services restart. Within the four walls of the Co-op we are emerging from the pandemic mindset and once again looking forward. The Co-op team is rediscovering our energy and passion for all we do in service to the community and we look forward to catching up!
There is no doubt however that during the winter our world has changed. We must be aware of these changes and take steps to ensure that the Co-op will be positioned for success. As inflation rises and the labor markets shift, we must invest in and care for our team. Shopping trends that were a boon to the Co-op during the pandemic will no doubt normalize closer to pre-pandemic levels so we must remain financially disciplined. Our supply chain continues to be challenged and the cost of goods continues to reflect these challenges. We have welcomed new people to the community from up the road and across the sea. And perhaps most importantly, as the pandemic landscape continues to shift we must remain focused on the safety and wellness of everyone we serve.
As our fiscal year draws to a close, we are working carefully on plans to help us navigate this uncertainty while remaining true to our Principles and Ends. The Cooperative model is an ideal solution to help Brattleboro meet the challenges that we will all continue to face. As evidenced by their ongoing efforts, the people who bring our Co-op alive are passionate, committed, and are both our greatest asset and the foundation of everything we do. The Co-op’s focus on local products will continue to grow and is the perfect foil for broader supply chain disruptions. We have the flexibility to quickly react to the needs of our shareholders and guests with pricing updates and systems like online shopping and curbside pickup. Our deep connections to the community enable us to provide support for many partner organizations. Finally, we have two years of pandemic learning that we are institutionalizing in our processes so we can quickly and effectively respond to changes with minimal disruption.
As I look out from the store at the clear blue sky and Wantastiquet keeping watch over the city, I am confident of one thing: as we emerge from the pandemic there is certainly a great deal of uncertainty, but our future will be no less bright for it!
By Lee Bradford, General Manager