My wife Robbie and I have been members since they opened and we probably shop there 2-3 times a week. For years after we moved to town in the mid-70s, we watched various attempts to create a Northfield food coop flounder so we were thrilled when a group of locals got organized and pulled it off. (See the Just Food Co-op Grand Opening Dec. 2004 photo album.)
Although we don’t yet spend 100% of our food dollars there (see Co-op Owner and General Manager Melanie Reid’s letter below), we keep increasing it as we try to become better frugalistas (Nov. 24 blog post).
The LG Triumvirate often has staff meetings there in the aisles, which has occasionally led to tomato fights like this one (right) between Ross and Tracy in 2006. Rollie Jacobsen failed miserably to mediate the dispute.
Keep reading for an excerpt from the Dec/Jan issue of The Compost (PDF) in which General Manager Melanie Reid has an article titled Invest in Something You Can Feel Good About: A call to action from your General Manager.
With the economic situation such as it is, now may not be a time that you are thinking about investing in anything but an extra mattress; however, your Co-op has an investment opportunity that you really should consider. I know at my house we are considering the impact of the economy on our daily lives and our future. We have reduced the number of trips we make to the Twin Cities, spent more time preserving the harvest from our garden this fall, don’t buy as much ice cream as we used to, and are making a concerted effort to keep the furnace at 64 degrees. My guess is that your family is having similar conversations and probably making similar adjustments to your lifestyle. Did you know that we have also been having these conversations at the Co-op?
Not unlike your family, your Co-op is feeling the affects of the downturn in our economy as well. Not a day goes by that the members of our leadership team don’t discuss ways that we can reduce our spending, boost our sales and balance our budget. I know that typically when you talk about the Co-op with friends, neighbors, board members, staff members, even me… the conversation usually centers on what’s going well. What we usually don’t bring up is all the debt that the Co-op has incurred and the lack of profit in the four years that we have been doing business.
While we are coming up with ideas (adjusting our budget, reducing our labor costs, revising our capital spending allowance for the year, etc.) and implementing them daily, there is no simple solution. The one thing we know for sure is that we are all in this together. Our Coop came to be due to a community effort, and I am convinced that our Co-op will weather the current economic storm with the participation of all of our owners. After many brainstorming sessions, your Co-op leaders have come up with a host of ways for you to help us through. Remember that this is your Co-op, and your Co-op needs your help right now.
The first thing you can do is to continue supporting the Co-op with your food dollars. The more of your dollars you can spend with us, the better our sales volume will be. This is of key importance for us right now so we can continue to operate smoothly. I ask you to consider taking the “buy local challenge” by spending 80% or more of your food dollars at your Co- op. Even better, could you spend 100% of your food dollars at your Co-op? I realize this may represent a transition for your family.
I made that transition once myself and now spend 100% of my family’s food dollars at Just Food. This is a commitment that I feel really good about. I look at this as a commitment to my family’s health and well being. My son is seven years old and has been ill three times in his life. I attribute this to his diet. Eating whole, organic and locally produced food is the best defense against illness that I have ever found. Perhaps we spend a bit more on groceries, but we feel terrific and don’t have to worry about the high cost of health care.
Secondly you can share your thoughts about the Co-op with your friends and neighbors. Talking about the Co-op and the food you find here, the relationships you build here, and how great it is to own your own grocery store are all great conversation starters at neighborhood get-togethers, dinners with friends, or play-dates with fellow parents. You are the Co- op’s best advertisement, and we hope that you are talking us up to everyone you know! Did you know that we are happy to host a tour of the Co-op with any group that you might think to invite? Perhaps your book group would like to come down and see the store and talk with one of our staff members about the Co-op? Or what about your child’s playgroup? Give our marketing and member services manager a call to set up a tour any time. They are a great opportunity to introduce your friends to your Co-op.
Another great way to share the Co-op with friends is to order a party platter for a get-together. Our deli offers a nice variety to suit all your needs from a lunch gathering to local artisan cheeses for a wine tasting event. Don’t forget your Co-op when entertaining- it’s a great way to get the word out about how yummy our food is! Lastly, did you know that the gift of ownership is the perfect fit for anyone on your gift list? Can you think of anyone who wouldn’t love an ownership as a gift? Heck, I gave one to my mother a couple of years ago! It’s as easy as asking your cashier next time you’re in.
The third great opportunity is to invest in additional Co-op equity. When you joined you purchased stock in the Co-op which provided needed equity for us as a new business. Through our Roots to Grow capital campaign, we are offering the chance to further that equity investment. Anyone who is an owner of Just Food and a Minnesota Resident may purchase class C stock (or C-shares). At just $250 each, they are an affordable option for many families. You may invest in as many shares of class C stock as you like knowing that you are investing in your local community. This is an investment that you can feel good about. You know that your dollars are going to support a good cause, and an important community center. What better place to invest your dollars? As you consider making an additional investment in Just Food take a moment to think about all the folks that your investment will be used to support such as our network of local producers and farmers, the many staff members you have come to know over the years, and all the people who benefit from the good food that we offer.
My family owns five C-shares, and we are considering furthering our investment because we believe in the Co-op and all that it stands for. I ask you to join me in making this investment in our future. The final opportunity I offer at this time is to make a member loan to your Coop. Member loans were a vital part of our initial funding when we opened our doors and continue to be extremely important today. Member loans can be made in any amount with a minimum investment of one thousand dollars. Interest on these loans is set (by you) between zero and four and a half percent and terms range from 5-9 years. Four and a half percent interest is actually a pretty good deal these days! I encourage you to consider making the investment in your Co- op’s future with a member loan today. Again, knowing that your money is working towards a solid future for your community Co-op is a commitment that you can and should feel good about making. Details on all the options are available in the store or by speaking with a member of our Board of Directors.
Please contact us today and let us know how we can help you further invest in our joint future. I leave you with a final reminder that Just Food is truly your Co-op and I hope that you will take it upon yourself to answer this call in the ways that suit you and your situation best. We are all in this together, and it will be with a true collaboration of all 1700 members that we will dance through this rain and see a better financial balance in the near future. I thank you for your continued commitment to Just Food.
Melanie C Reid, Co-op Owner and General Manager
This business has paid Locally Grown an advertorial fee for this blog post because they feel their products and services are in-line with our philosophy… and we agree. See our advertising page for more details.