Make 2018 a Cooperative Year

By John Tashiro, General Manager

Hello everyone and a very Happy New Year!

Here we are at the start of 2018 and we continue to make steps to transition from a one-store to multi-store co-op with every day that goes by. While we planned and prepared for a variety of scenarios, we always recognized there would be some unknowns. One of these was around the significant hiring and training of staff as we aimed to fill 100 new positions for the South End. Due to the low unemployment levels in Burlington and across the state, we were understaffed at our November opening which caused us to temporarily limit some of our Prepared Food offerings. We are making great progress with both hiring and training, especially in the Prepared Foods department. Over the next month, we expect to expand our offerings to include breakfast sandwiches, breakfast on the hot bar and made-to-order sandwiches beyond 2pm. We’ll share news of these updates as they happen!

Another unknown was how customer sales might migrate from the Downtown store to the South End store. You may recall that we anticipated a gradual shift of up to 20% of sales over a three to four month period, but it appears to be happening at a faster rate. Since opening, sales at the South End store have outpaced our forecasts. However, it is too soon to make any long term assumptions, especially given the unique sales trends of the holiday season. We measure success for the Co-op’s expansion on the collective performance of both locations and will only be able to fully assess this after a full 12 month cycle. It will be interesting to see how things continue to settle between the two locations over that time.  

Overall, we’ve had some fantastic achievements in 2017 that include:

  • Over 40% of our sales coming from local products and still rising;
  • The consecutive new records set with Rally for Change, now averaging over $19,000 in monthly donations to community non-profit partners;
  • The continued increases in Food for All Membership and sales
  • Exceeding 13,000 Members by the end of December; and
  • The success of our 20th annual COTS Tree Sale. Thanks to all of your incredible support, we generated $10,500 from the sale of 660 trees going directly to COTS (Community on Temporary Shelter)!

Recently, we also received some exciting news regarding our Member Loan Campaign. Between now and January 31, a group of Member lenders have offered a dollar for dollar match of up to a total of $125,000 for each loan amount that meets or exceeds the $2,500 minimum. The Member Loan Campaign remains a very tangible way to directly invest in the growth of the Co-op and earn a fair rate of return with a business you already own and believe in. With this fantastic match option, I would sincerely appreciate your consideration.

On a related note, I wanted to update you that we are making good progress with the sale of 75 Briggs Street, which is on the southerly portion of our South End parcel. As you may remember, we issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) last spring and received a number of submissions. Since then, we have been assessing these proposals through an extensive due diligence process with our Board to confirm a final applicant. We are getting very close to concluding the process, so please stay tuned!

Lastly and while it’s still early in the New Year, you might be pondering or even have second thoughts about your New Year’s resolutions. Among the many usual options from exercising more, eating healthily, finding time to relax and volunteering, how about looking into what the Co-op has planned over the next few months. We offer a variety of classes at our Community Teaching Kitchen in the South End and have already heard how much Members are enjoying the classes in the new space.  

As always, thank you all for your support throughout 2017. We will continue to make every effort to listen and serve you, our Members and the broader community this year. We’re looking forward to a fantastic 2018 and wishing you our very best!