|My Co-op Story|
by John Hatton
My wife Kate, our 1-year-old daughter, and I came to Brattleboro in 1991. For a brief stint in the ‘80's, I had agreed to be the interim general manager of an inner-city conventional food co-op in Hartford, CT – but I really didn’t know or learn anything about co-ops; I was just running a grocery store.
Gradually, my work for Northeast Cooperatives got me immersed in the culture and personalities of its member coops. I started to understand the cooperative principles, learned how this wave of co-ops had come about, the challenges they faced from privately-owned natural foods stores and what became the Whole Foods behemoth, and eventually from the conventional supermarkets. But at that time, the real challenges for the co-ops seemed to come from within; this was a fractionated movement that was divided over whether or not to emulate the “corporate” way of doing business, whether or not to grow, and what kind of music could be played in the stores – big questions.
At first, I was taken aback at what seemed like basic questions of survival; to me, we (I now identified with co-ops) had to be professional in running businesses, and we had to grow to survive. I joined a loose but wide-spread group of co-opers who wanted to help our co-ops evolve.
I’m now in my last year of term limits on the BFC Board of Directors, and once I’m off the board, I’ll look for other ways to be involved – even if it’s just doing shareholder hours bagging at the register (my favorite Co-op job). As our co-ops have grown, they’ve brought me along with them – and I want to do what I can to return the favor.