Amidst change, co-op values endure
By Chris Maher, General Manager
“If everyone is moving forward together, success takes care of itself.” -Henry Ford
A month ago it was announced that Amazon plans to purchase Whole Foods Market. This is a profound change in an industry in which progress generally takes place at a glacial pace. Many shoppers as well as folks in the natural foods industry were left wondering what the implications of this merger might be for small-scale grocery retailers, distributors, and the food system as a whole. Local and sustainable food champion Alice Waters gave voice to some of our thoughts and hopes in a letter she wrote to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon:
…you have an unprecedented opportunity to change our food system overnight: It is time to demand that produce comes from farmers who are taking care of the land, to require meat and seafood to come from operations that are not depleting natural resources, and to support the endeavors of those American farmers and food makers who do not enjoy federal subsidies…
I can only wonder whether her vision reflects the motivations of those who brokered this enormous deal, but I do know that it reflects the values upon which BriarPatch and the cooperative food movement were founded. These are the values that continue to guide our operations. And it is this vision that has led us to increase the proportion of local produce and other products sold in our store, institute low-interest farm loans, and adhere to strong product standards that help our shoppers make healthier, sustainable choices. We put a strong emphasis on providing information about our products and their sources to our customers, believing that we have an obligation to educate consumers about their food. To this end, we are very excited to partner with the Center for the Arts in welcoming Alice Waters to our community on Friday, September 8th. I hope to see you there.
While the overall impact of this merger is not yet clear, we do know that we will continue to work at improving our store and strengthening our cooperative. Our structure affords us a direct link to our owners and allows us to hear and respond to your evolving needs. Our goal is to provide value to our community – and this will never change. We value and invite your ideas and feedback.
Our current store improvements are taking place quickly and smoothly. We expect most of the changes to the interior of the store to be completed by the end of this month. It is already apparent that the result will be an improved shopping experience, as the store is roomier inside and out since we moved the front wall. We are also very excited about the additional refrigeration we’ve just installed. In the next few weeks, you will see a final lighting installation, a fresh coat of paint, and a few more changes in our product displays.
I want to thank all the customers who have stopped by our information kiosks and given their feedback. I’d also like to praise the staff and volunteers who have worked extra hard to keep our customers informed. It is powerful to feel the partnership of the community in this amazing work.