Community relationships feed Co-op’s success

by Richard Drace, Board Vice President

DraceAs you read this, it’s likely that I’ll be the next President of the BriarPatch Board of Directors. I’m grateful and excited by this opportunity. Before joining this Board, I was active in volunteering at non-profit organizations that had noble missions but often lacked the resources or organizational capacity to meet their expectations. In my five years on the BriarPatch Board, it’s been very gratifying to be part of an organization that thrives both as a successful business and as a major community player. At Board meetings I look around the table and am continually impressed by my fellow Board members — skilled, committed, and excellent collaborators — as well as by our truly awesome management team.

Although we are not a non-profit — we are a for-profit cooperative corporation — we are at heart a mission-driven organization. In the simplest sense, we sell groceries — no, wait, we sell the best groceries — and in a larger sense, we are simply your old-fashioned neighborhood grocery store, all grown up. Our neighborhood is our entire community, and we owe our success to our symbiotic relationship: our community supports us and we support our community.

At BriarPatch we are local — indeed, we are fiercely, loyally local. That means not only that we offer the freshest locally grown and raised products, but also that we support over 50 local farms and ranches whose products we buy. We are your community market that’s all about local food.

We are also your community market in many ways that extend beyond food. Though our mission will always be to supply and advocate for the very best food, that mission also includes support for other initiatives our shoppers care about deeply. Our C.A.U.S.E. program (“Change Adds Up, Supporting Everyone”) provides both food and non-food community groups with much-needed cash, as well as helpful publicity. We are a major sponsor of Sierra Harvest — which is all about food — and we’re also a major sponsor of Center for the Arts — which is all about the cultural arts that are also very important to the community of our owners and other shoppers. Add to this our support of KVMR, SYRCL, Bear Yuba Land Trust… and the list goes on.

We are also about being a business with integrity. We are good employers: we instituted our Livable Wage program and recently adopted the practice of Open Book Management, which invites all employees to share in managing their departments. We’ve also built this LEED-accredited store to very high environmental standards. And now, this summer, we’re going to transform our parking lot in two ways: first, with lots more space for parking and improved traffic flow, and second, with the community’s largest solar array that will offset well over half of our store’s energy consumption.

At a time when many co-ops are struggling, BriarPatch is thriving. It’s doing so because you folks shop here and because you’ve decided we have something to offer that the other stores don’t. It’s your loyalty to us — your support for our mission — that includes food and community — and our loyalty to you, that’s responsible for our continued success.

And so, let me close with one simple word that says it all, “Thanks.”

Richard Drace was Vice President of the BriarPatch Board of Directors as of press time and is expected to be elected President by the Board at its May 31 meeting.

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