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Last month we talked about changes the Board was considering to help sustain the current positive culture as the Co-op expands to a third site (Eastside, Off-Site Kitchen, and now the Downtown store). Those changes were focused internally on what staff is doing well now and how they will have to be different in order to function in a more complex multi-site environment. This month, we are turning our focus outward, to how member owners can contribute to the success of our second retail store. One measure of success will be how well we maintain our values as we create and operate a financially successful second retail site.

Member bonds
Banks have indicated that they would be happy to lend us the money required to complete the second store. However, all members of the Board feel it would be a mistake to totally rely on bank borrowing to finance the new store. We believe asking our owners to invest in our Co-op by purchasing member bonds is a better way of assuring our success.

Our business model is different from other businesses in an important way: our owners and customers are one and the same. Raising money from our customers allows us to cement the bond built on high quality services and cooperative values. Finally, raising money to support a terrific local institution, important to the lives of many, many people, is an attractive option in these times of national and multinational investment alternatives.

When the Co-op moved to its current site at 1221 Williamson, member bonds were a very important aspect of our success. We needed the money, but more importantly, we needed to know that the community supported our values as a locally owned grocery co-op. Back then member-owners demonstrated with their financial support that they were willing to invest in an institution whose values they believed in and whose groceries they depended on. Asking the same of our owners now helps us continue the tradition of acting on our values.

As stewards of the Willy Street Co-op, the Board is focused on how to finance the expenses associated with the second retail store. With that goal in mind, the Board is exploring these questions: What is the right mix of cash reserves, borrowing, and member bonds to fund a second retail store? What can we learn from our experience in issuing bonds when we moved from our old corner store to our current site at 1221? What steps do “best practices” indicate we should take to insure our bond drive is a success? As we answer these and other questions, we will give you more bond purchasing information in the weeks ahead.

Staff works hard every day to earn your loyalty and make the Co-op a success. Your commitment as an owner, a shopper or a bond investor is equally important to the Co-op’s long term success. Soon, we will ask you to consider the benefits of investing in the Co-op, and then, if you agree, you will have the opportunity to put your money where your mouth is.