by Anya Firszt, General Manager
The Co-op is more than just the average grocery store... it is a business owned by its members, and with membership comes privileges as well as responsibility. Our bylaws require membership approval on the expenditure of funds in excess of $50,000 on an expansion, as well as the approval of the budget for the next fiscal year and the election of the Board of Directors.
You should have received a letter from the Board of Directors telling you about the upcoming vote-and the process they have used to make this recommendation to you.
In order for the Co-op to open another retail site, membership approval is required—you have granted this approval on two previous occasions in the last ten years; the relocation of the store from 1202 to 1221 Williamson Street and the proposed opening of a second store located on Monroe Street at Monroe Commons. The relocation of the store in 1999 received a 98 percent approval rating of those who voted, and the proposed opening of a site on Monroe Street in 2004 received a 99 percent approval rating of those that voted. Both ballots were site-specific, and, although you voted in favor of the expenditure of funds for opening a second retail site at the Monroe Commons site, this approval was only good for that site. Therefore, in order for us to move forward with any new second site proposal, the membership will need to approve the expenditure of funds.
In the next week or so you will receive a ballot and you will be asked to consider the question of approving the expenditure of funds in excess of $50,000 on expansion.
Your approval of this expenditure will give the Board of Directors the authority to move forward with securing a site if the opportunity presents itself. Additionally, if you remember the Monroe Commons site discussions, they were conducted openly in the newspaper vying one potential tenant against the other–that is not an ideal situation for any real estate transaction to be negotiated. Real estate negotiations can be compared to a poker game; negotiations require each player to hold some cards close to the vest and in private before the final bets are made. In other words, telling your opponent your game plan and showing all the cards you have will put you in an awkward position for a successful site bid.
The Board of Directors has spent a great deal of time and energy researching second retail site options, and their work is not complete. They continue to review second site options that will best serve BOTH the members as well as needs of the business. I encourage you to support the Board in their decision to move forward with this vote and your approval of the expenditure of funds.
A second retail site will:
- provide current members and prospective members greater access to goods and services. It will also provide members greater opportunity for information about food, food politics, agriculture, sustainability, and the cooperative model.
- offer members an option of locations to shop and could reduce some stresses presently being felt at the current 1221 location–parking, for example.
- heighten our ability to support local and regional commerce by increasing the purchases made to current vendors (farmers, producers).
- allow the Off-Site Kitchen facility to realize its potential and provide product to more than one retail site, which it was originally designed for.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly, I can be reached at 251-0884 ext. 470 or . There is a list of frequently asked questions on our website (www.willystreet.coop) and in the store.
As a final note, your approval of this the ballot language will enable the Board of Directors and management to negotiate the best available deal for the Co-op when a site that meets our needs presents itself.
Busy, busy, busy
We are working on a great number of issues right now—the budget vote will be presented in June; the Annual Membership Meeting is in August; the Board election and revision to the by-laws vote is coming in September (all this in addition to selling groceries). So stay tuned and keep informed.