Each year, during mud season, we plan. We begin to think about new options for physical space, upgrades to tools, decisions about expanding or contracting certain food categories, and along the way, we try to figure out how our sales will respond. As you can imagine, this past year has been a wild ride, with unexpected twists and turns. I have so much respect and admiration for our management team, who came together and figured out pandemic adjustments, again and again, displaying real teamwork and support for each other as we reacted and reformulated. This spring, we have another blurry crystal ball to interpret, as we attempt to project which food habits will change and which will continue. We are beginning to pull these thoughts together in the form of budgets, and again, we recognize that in the post-vaccine era we know perhaps even less than last year, even as we rush to make some changes to our space to allow for some of these anticipated changes.
We think, for instance, that the need for curbside ordering by phone will subside substantially. It already has begun to trend downward as some of the regular users get vaccinated and re-establish their ability and willingness to go into stores. But we anticipate that our online ordering system will continue to serve a variety of needs, and we intend to continue to update and add products to that option.
We also are planning to reopen the café seating area when all of the restrictions are lifted. So we will take the opportunity to reconfigure a few things about that space to make it more user-friendly. This will likely not happen until summer, at the earliest, but the anticipation is lovely.
Even as we work on these very pragmatic solutions, we are also turning our attention to staff development and training. We have had a hiatus from many of these activities during COVID times, as we had reached our capacity with the multitude of basic grocery store issues. We have plans for various programs over the next year, including accessing more skills training, more orientations to cooperatives, or consistent supervisory training. But the most important and exciting opportunity is to tackle comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion training, organization- and community-wide! We are beginning the journey with a fine local trainer to establish a new vision for our work, and creating some advisory groups that include members of our staff and the board as well as from the community, to better inform and address the lack of supportive access for members of the BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) community. My goal is to truly change the way we view our work and the results we expect of it in the long term. This will take time and careful stewardship, but over the next couple of years I think we can make excellent and lasting progress.
In the meantime, see you in the aisles!
By Sabine Rhyne, General Manager