One of the most exciting months of the year in the life of a Willy Street Co-op Owner (you!) is July! This is the month you get to decide who will represent you in the governance of your Co-op by voting in new Board members. That’s not all, though—your ballot has several other important decisions that will ensure our continued success and service to the community for years to come despite encroaching competition and a changing marketplace.
Get ready to vote!
First and foremost, we need your vote on this year’s ballot so we know that we’ve heard the will of our Owners to move forward on decisions with confidence. With 34,000+ Owners looking out for the best interests of the Co-op and everyone it serves, we know together we are putting the Co-op on the best path forward.
New Board members!
The first item to vote on is who you want representing you and the Co-op on our Board of Directors. The roster of candidates and their statements is detailed in this Reader and online, so please take a look and place your vote for those you believe will make the best leaders for our Co-op.
Next item on the ballot this year, as mentioned in my Board Report last month, the Co-op needs to position itself for smart growth over the next few years to serve a growing community of Owners, to compete against an increasingly crowded natural foods marketplace, and to be the leader in the community we aim to be. Smart growth will allow us to better fulfill our mission of being an “economically and environmentally sustainable cooperatively owned grocery business, serving the needs of its Owners and employees and a cornerstone of a vibrant community that provides fairly priced goods and services while supporting local and organic supporters.” This approach to smart growth has always been part of the fabric of our Co-op—whether it was moving into 1221 Williamson in 1999 or opening Willy North last year, it is a strategy we have always prioritized.
To that end, we’re asking Owners to support an expenditure of funds for the expansion and remodel of our West store. While this store has served the needs of its community for the last seven years, we now have a unique and timely opportunity to expand into the retail space next to the existing West store. This move proactively positions our store to be viable for a growing community long into the future and be responsive to Owner requests for improvements at the store today. An opportunity such as this is rare and may not be available to us again if we don’t look ahead and act now
The future is bright!
Next on our ballot, we continue to look forward for opportunities to fulfill our mission of fostering and serving a vibrant community. We define that as being able to serve those that aren’t currently or conveniently being served by us, or quite frankly in many cases, any grocery business. We know that not all of our Owners are currently being served conveniently with a store in our near their neighborhood and yet they still chose to support us by spending their grocery dollars with us. We want to support and serve Owners and our community as much as we can in return.
There are a few ways that the Co-op could go about expanding our services. For example, muchlike our North store, the expansion of Willy Street Co-op into more neighborhoods will bring more access to quality food choices to more members of our community. Because we had your approval in advance of the decision to go forward with North, we were able to respond quickly when the space became available. We also are aware that our demands on our Production Kitchen are increasing and will not always be sustainable. An expansion may alleviate pressure and enable increases in efficiencies, which could lower cost of goods in all locations. We ask that Owners approve our efforts to research and investigate opportunities, and when (or if) fitting, take action on an expansion project within the next three years.
Just like when our Owners voted in 2014 to allow us to explore a third retail site, which enabled our ability to expand with our North store, your vote to allow us to explore expansion opportunities again is necessary for the Co-op to be able to be responsive in the real estate marketplace we face in this area today. Any final decision would be dependent on pro-forma, market study, finance committee approval and recommendation, and of course, Board approval. However, an approval now from Owners tells us it is acceptable to consider opportunities as they come.
Last item on the ballot involves a bylaw update. Whenever the Co-op needs to amend, change or update bylaws, we must ask for Owner approval. Every year, our Policy Committee reviews our policies and bylaws and looks for areas of inconsistency or improvement; it is part of our process of ongoing improvement. This update to our bylaws was recommended by our Policy Committee to align Board policy with bylaws when it was brought to our attention as inconsistent. Amending the bylaw allows the Board to be able to enforce its own code of conduct which states that a Board member who violates the code of conduct can be removed from the board with a two-thirds vote of the Board. While this provision is currently part of the Board’s code of conduct, we cannot enforce the rule unless it is amended into our bylaws, which is why we ask you to vote to amend our bylaws to do so.
I hope this helps you make informed decisions on your ballot this year. Your vote is extremely important to the current and future success of the Co-op. We recognize we are asking a lot of Owners to make these important decisions, and therefore we’re offering three different information sessions during the voting window to allow you to ask questions of our General Manager and Board. (July 5th—North, July 6th—East, and July 10th—West, at 6:00pm).
See you at the July 13th Annual Meeting & Party, and thank you for being an informed Owner of our Co-op!