A time to celebrate past and present accomplishments and to look to our cooperative future

by Chris Maher, General Manager


Get ready, Co-op owners, it’s almost time for BriarPatch’s 40th Anniversary Party! The big night is Thursday, October 13, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The Co-op’s office staff put on their 1970s garb ahead of time to inspire everyone else to think 1976 and get those outfits ready. No, dressing up isn’t absolutely necessary to attend, but it will be a lot of fun, and a photo booth will be set up at the party to take and print photos to remember the occasion.
Tickets cost only 40¢ and a can of food for the Food Bank (bring to the party), and may be purchased at the register, which will help with a head count so we are sure to bring plenty of food. Speaking of which, this party is not a sit-down dinner but plenty of finger food will be available.

This month marks 40 years that BriarPatch Co-op has been serving our community. It was in October 1976 that the original group of cooperators began making plans to convert their “Grub Club” into a true retail operation that could attract and benefit more people. By July of the following year, our first store at Loma Rica Drive had opened under the management of Lillian Gilbreth. By December, the original membership of thirteen had expanded to over 230.

It is that same spirit of growth and increasing access to great products that has inspired the Patch over these last forty years. Today we have over 7,500 active owners, over 200 staff members, and we donate more than $50,000 annually to altruistic causes in Nevada County. Our vision continues to be that we benefit ever more people through our activities, and give access to the best local and organic products on the market today.

The strength and success of the Co-op supports the local economy by creating jobs and a market for locally grown and made products. This in turn supports our agricultural community and helps develop new businesses in our market. After having operated in five locations around Grass Valley, BriarPatch has now made a home in our Sierra College Drive store after developing, and ultimately purchasing the property in 2015. With that investment, our efforts to have a positive impact to our community and environment have achieved a new level. We have leveraged our community’s support so as to improve our site and implement our vision of ever more environmentally sustainable operations.

Solar Parking Project thanks

The final touches are now being put on the new parking lot and solar structure. In just a few weeks the panels will be activated, generating nearly half a million kilowatts that will provide over half of the market’s electricity needs. This will save us up to $3 million over the 25-year life of the panels. It is an enormous step forward in terms of renewable resources, for BriarPatch as well as our community.

I would like to thank all the people who have worked to make this project such a success, as it has been completed on time and with only small variations to our original budget projections. Our design and construction team included Jeff Gold, our architect and project manager. His energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail are extraordinary. Kevin Nelson and Kevin “K2” Nelson Jr., the engineers, provided great support in the design and permitting processes and helped us to ensure that we had a solid, functional structure.

The construction work was done by the talented teams of Tru-Line Builders and Hansen Brothers. I am particularly grateful to Daniel Swartzendruber and Ken Porter. Their creativity and attention to detail was largely responsible for helping construction go so smoothly, and with minimal impact upon our customers and store operations.

California Solar Electric Company, under the direction of Lars Ortegren and Brandon Davis, worked diligently to build us the best possible solar system to accomplish our goals of making a giant step toward reduced expenses and sustainability.

The beautiful landscape was designed by Jo McProud and installed by Bob Zucca and the team at Weiss Landscaping. It is one of the most exciting parts of this whole project.

The store is enjoyed by so many members of our community that I often refer to the patio area as the “front porch” of Grass Valley and Nevada City. On any given day, hundreds of people meet and make use of this area, engaging in all kinds of different activities. With the new design and landscaping we have expanded the areas available for picnicking and hanging out. This further equips us to be an amazing community hub for great food, great people, and great times.

I also want to give a shout out to all of our staff for the many new tasks they performed and the adjustments they made to their daily routines in order to accommodate and support the project. Our management team also played a significant role in providing feedback and great ideas. Lastly, our Board of Directors deserves our admiration and appreciation for their attention to this project and their vision of the BriarPatch’s place in our community.

Looking back, looking ahead

Looking back over four decades offers us the opportunity to truly marvel at how things have changed. It is fun to remember the unexpected twists and turns in the road that have brought us to this latest successful incarnation of our Co-op.

Perhaps even more importantly, it offers us a vantage point to look 40 years into the future, and to challenge ourselves to imagine what another forty years will bring for ourselves, BriarPatch, and our community. There are so many things that we simply can’t imagine or anticipate.

Whatever the future may bring, our dedication to the initial vision that inspired a small group of friends to set out on this path will guide us to remain important and impactful for all who join us in this amazing cooperative endeavor.

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