You Asked, We Listened
By John Tashiro, General Manager
How time flies! It’s hard to believe it will officially be summer in just a few weeks. This is such an energizing time of year as we start to see the significant ramp up of all the local farm produce and Vermont-made products at the Co-op, at farmers’ markets and throughout the state.
First and foremost, thank you all for celebrating with us at the Flynn Ave Block Party a few weeks back on May 12th! The blue sky weather was perfect and we estimate that more than 3,000 of you joined us for all the festivities at the Co-op, Citizen Cider and Switchback Brewing. While we wondered how our parking lot would hold up, there seemed to be enough space for everyone to relax, connect and enjoy the Co-op vibe. Community members enjoyed the wonderful Burlington Taiko performance, tasty food and beverage sampling (yes those sliders, meatballs, hot dogs, kombucha and ice cream were pretty popular), lots of cycling on our smoothie bikes in rhythm with the fun music, kids’ face painting, BCA fruit stamps on canvas bags, decorating our Children’s Discovery Garden sign with Tara Goreau, and chalk creativity on the sidewalk! Being central to a thriving and healthy community underpins the Co-op’s mission. At a time where virtual interactions are becoming more of the norm, we recognize the invaluable role that in-person connections have with building strong communities. You can find some fun pictures from the day on our Facebook photo album here.
Speaking of communities, over six months have passed since we opened our South End store! What a fantastic experience it has been connecting with Members and customers, new and regular, and getting to know the neighborhood. We sincerely appreciate the many customer comments we receive, whether it be for the Downtown or South End stores, ranging from new product requests, staff compliments, or to new ideas and suggestions for improvements. We review them carefully on a weekly basis and strive to respond to each one in a timely manner. Based on what we’ve heard from you, we’ve made some specific changes in the South End store that we wanted to share:
Product parity between both stores
Anticipating some differences with demographics between the Downtown and South End, we initially decided to vary some of our product offerings at the South End store. However, based on on-going requests to bring more parity between the stores, we have made a variety of adjustments and continue to assess product categories to best serve your needs. Our most significant and recent change was to increase the number of options in our bulk department with a new fixture near the nut butters.
Bringing more of a Co-op vibe
We intentionally created a “blank slate” on our interior walls to get a better feel for sight lines across the store and give us time to grow into the space. You’ve most likely noticed that muralist Tara Goreau is on her third interior mural (the first one is in the entryway and the second is upstairs just outside our Community Teaching Kitchen). This third mural, above the entrance doors to the café, is visible from across the entire store. In Tara’s words,
This an homage to the Green Mountains, the wildlife, the seasons, and also the agrarian roots of VT. I wanted to personify things like the sun, tree, and field with faces for a few reasons, mostly to bring a new dimensions of significance to them, so they are seen as characters, and not just scenery. The dawn has special significance because the Abenaki who were indigenous to the region were known as 'people of the dawn land'. The maple tree has a face because it is such an important crop for Vermonters, and also showcases our seasonal shift with vibrant colors, and I’m using the shape of the structural beam in the middle of the wall. I want this mural to be a celebration of what makes Vermont special - hope, farmers, and our land.
The Children’s Discovery Garden on the south side of the store is also coming to life with additional landscaping, a green wall on the way and some new signage (decorated by muralist Tara Goreau and kids at our Flynn Ave Block Party!). The Member Art walls in the café are almost complete and you’ll see artwork appearing in early July.
Directional Signs and Menu Boards
We have now installed a majority of our wayfinding signs and larger menu boards, including aisle signs, department header signs, Customer Service and Wellness signs, and Prepared Foods menu signs. We’re also excited to convey that all the exterior and interior signs are made by Vermonters as part of our efforts to keep things local! The exterior signs were created by Glaeser Sign Company just down Flynn Avenue, the aisle signs and the lettering for the header signs were crafted by the Sparky Potter Design Group and Wood & Wood Sign Systems in Waitsfield, and the header signs were painted by muralist Tara Goreau. The new bulletin board in the entryway and the new wood framed signs in the Prepared Foods department were created by Sorrell Construction Management in Underhill.
South End Community Room
Based on our many community and individual conversations during the planning of the store, we clearly heard the need for gathering spaces and created the South End Community Room. The reservation system for the room has been up and running for a few months and is certainly getting some good use.
Located on the second floor of our store, this space serves as a conference room for staff and Board meetings, a classroom for community workshops, and a gathering space for our community members. While priority for the use of this space is given to Co-op events and Community Outreach partner use, there are also opportunities for Members, non-profit organizations, and other Co-op partners to reserve the space on an hourly basis during store hours. (Please note that this space will not be available for private events or parties.) You can find more details on the South End Community Room and reservation information on our website.
To enhance your shopping experience, we:
- installed of additional cart corrals in the parking lot,
- ordered more of the kids’ carts,
- started offering magazines for sale by the registers,
- ordered extra tables and chairs for the café,
- started offering City Market merchandise by Customer Service,
- filled our pastry case with more delicious, local options,
- offered some family friendly games and puzzles in the café, and
- added a computer kiosk by Customer Service so you can easily sign up for Member Worker Orientation, apply for City Market jobs and more!
Last, but certainly not least, we’re continuing to make great progress with our Member Loan Campaign. Members have pledged about $700,000 of our $1.5 million goal that we need to reach by August 27. Our Loan Campaign remains a very tangible way to invest in the successful growth of your Co-op and earn a fair rate of return with a business you already own and believe in.
We recognize that the $2,500 loan minimum may not be feasible for many Members. Still want to participate to support the South End store? Consider another valuable option! If you still have a bit of equity to go to reach the full share of $200, consider “topping up” your Member Equity to get to (or beyond!) $200.
As always, thank you all for your continued support; we look forward to seeing you under sunny blue skies this summer at the Co-op!