Board both teaches and learns at co-op conference

Richard Draceby Richard Drace, Board President

This is my first opportunity to greet you all as your new Board President. I’d like to first extend my thanks to all of you who voted in our recent Board of Directors election, and to the team who put together our new — and seamlessly run — online voting system.

Lots is happening around the Patch. It’s been fully half a year since we bought the store, but each time I walk in through the doors I still say with delight, “We Own It!” I watch the progress of the construction of our parking lot and visualize the completed lot with its solar array, teeming with shoppers who look happier than before. We’ll soon be unveiling a new graphic look and exciting plans for our interior store remodeling.

Every year, a number of Directors attend CCMA, a conference for co-ops that gives us a unique opportunity to share ideas with other co-ops. This year, our contingent — Alan, Alana, Mark, and I — presented a workshop entitled, “Community Support Fosters Our Competitive Edge.” We filled a large room, received many compliments, and left the conference feeling that other co-ops will be doing more to support similar programs in their communities.

Here are two of the biggest things we learned at the conference: 1) As mainstream grocery stores improve their offerings of natural and organic foods, many co-ops are struggling. We’re pleased that the lesson we’ve been teaching for 40 years is finally getting out there — good food is very important to good health. Another side of this trend, though, is that the benefits of natural food co-ops are no longer as obvious as they used to be. At the Patch we’re still thriving, but clearly we need to be resilient and resourceful as we look ahead. 2) We also learned about a number of new business models. Some co-ops are merging; some are forming a consortium for shared purchasing and marketing; some are switching to a “solidarity” model of hybrid employee and consumer ownership. We’ll be keeping an open mind toward all of these as we navigate on, into the future.

As we celebrate our 40th anniversary this year, we’re looking back at where we were many years ago. (It’s okay, go ahead and laugh at the photo of me in my ’70s avatar.) We’re also looking ahead and exploring ways to evolve our business to where today’s and tomorrow’s shoppers urge us to go.

Speaking of celebration, mark October 13 on your calendar, for our annual Owner Meeting at the Nevada Theatre at 5:00 p.m. and 40th Anniversary Party at the Miners Foundry at 6:00 p.m. Let’s celebrate!

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