By John Tashiro, General Manager
Happy New Year and hope you are having a great start to January! How quickly 2019 seemed to go as we reflect on all the exciting and challenging moments that these last twelve months have presented. Reflecting on our success this past year, we celebrated two years since the South End store opening this past November, marking our transition to a multi-store Co-op. While this evolution has presented challenges, we’re proud to share that annual sales have surpassed $50 million with over 40% coming from local and Made in Vermont products as well as over 60% of sales coming from our Members. The continued migration of customers and sales have been wonderful to see and feel with the Downtown’s sales contributing now close to 65% compared to 35% for the South End (a number that continues to grow). Along with the many benefits of expansion, we’d be remiss not to celebrate the increased parking! Further, the agreement of a three-year contract with our union after extensive negotiations and reaching the $1 million dollar milestone with our Rally for Change program in just five years were major highlights in 2019. Lastly, a final highlight of 2019 was our 22nd Annual COTS Tree Sale which raised over $13,400 for COTS and secured the planting of 662 new trees by the Intervale Conservation Nursery this coming spring!
While we reflect on the successes of the past year, we also acknowledge the challenges it posed. In 2019, we continued to struggle with staffing levels operating under record low unemployment levels in the city and state that required additional recruitment and training efforts as well as modifying our existing services at the Co-op. The food retail sector is very demanding and we have made good progress with new hires these last few month as we remain committed to valuing our staff and ensuring appropriate workloads. We also managed through a variety of City-related water main breaks, power outages, general road maintenance and construction along with a few significant winter storms. We adjusted our operating times as needed and on one rare occasion, closed the South End for approximately two days due to water contamination concerns in the neighborhood. Thankfully, the concern was unrealized, but we were proud to have erred on the side of caution and concern for the safety of our community.
As we wrap up our reflections on 2019 and enter into this new decade, many might still be pondering their New Year’s resolutions and the limitless number of options to consider – spending more quality time with family, friends or even oneself; gaining a new skill; expanding an interest or talent; exercising, cycling or walking more; reading more; improving your eating habits; volunteering and giving back to the community just to name a few. Some of the activities planned by the Co-op and our partners over the next few months might fit nicely with your resolutions, so please check out our calendar online or sign up for one of our email newsletters to be “in the know” this year.
One of my personal resolutions is to be more mindful of my environmental footprint. From transitioning our home’s heating system to heat pumps and renewable natural gas to offsetting family travel throughout the year with carbon offset projects like tree planting and eating more local wholesome foods, I am striving to make every effort to live more in harmony with our lovely planet. As you may know, the Co-op has and continues to remain ever committed to the environment. Most recently, we developed the an environmental framework to capture our approach and various initiatives. One significant initiative for this year will be the elimination of single-use plastic carryout bags from our registers starting on April 20th with Earth Week!
As always, thank you all for all your support throughout 2019. We eagerly look forward to utilizing those learned experiences to better serve you, our Members, customers and the broader community in the coming year. Wishing you all our very best!