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Brattleboro Food Co-op, A New Cornerstone in Our Community PDF Print E-mail

 June, 2012

This story bears repeating: we have a brand-new, thoughtfully-built four-story building in the heart of downtown Brattleboro, which will provide housing and food to the downtown area. This investment in our local community was made carefully, and was carried out despite the economic recession that we have been struggling through. Only a cooperative would take this bold a step, employing so many, partnering with other community organizations, and ensuring that our downtown will continue to be vibrant and compelling to all who pass through here.
Long live the Cooperative Difference!

Opening of the Brattleboro facility
We certainly have something to celebrate with the opening of the new Brattleboro Food Co-op store.  The store is great – amazing, really – and I will enjoy shopping there! But what I have in mind as the cause for celebration is our Co-op as a whole. The store as a great achievement is a milestone of decades of successful cooperative development.
Qualities I’ve observed and appreciate: the ongoing study of key issues that impact our lives and community; a culture of open communication and engagement sustained over many, many years; enthusiasm for exploring new ideas and for incorporating outside perspective; partnering with others; growing our economic capacity and impact; the sincere respect for people.
As one person living in Brattleboro, I could never have accomplished anything close to what our Co-op has accomplished, so I want to thank everyone who has helped moved the Co-op forward over the years. We are truly stronger together! Now let’s celebrate that new store!!
Mark Goehring, 
member since 1992, BFC Board 1998-2005

Our new store has been a long time coming! This process began (more or less) as the need for a new space became more and more apparent. The present store was too small to handle the amount of business we were generating. It was very energy-inefficient and becoming unsafe for the employees. We looked into moving into the old Grand Union building but the membership and the town made it clear that they wanted us to stay downtown. (A market survey found that, along with Sam’s, the Co-op was one of the main reasons many people come to Brattleboro!) So, after hearing multiple meticulously thorough presentations from Alex and the team regarding financial feasibility, environmental impact, how to remain true to the cooperative principles, meet the Ends Policies (along with many other issues) and getting more feedback from the members the board voted in favor of building. My term on the board ended in the midst of this exciting process, but I’ve had the pleasure of watching the progress as the structure takes form and can appreciate and understand the incredible time, thought, and energy that went into making it a reality. The BFC has moved and evolved from basements to a former grocery store to owning the entire plaza to a beautiful, well-thought-out energy-efficient multiple-use building that will continue to serve our community and its visitors for many years to come. I’m proud to have had a very small part in this endeavor and grateful to be able to reap it’s many benefits. I can’t wait to walk through those doors!
Donna Remy-Powers, 
member since 1988, BFC Board 2004-2012

The Process
Many of us have been involved since the beginning of the process that led to our new building: the consideration of moving the Co-op to a defunct grocery store on Putney Rd; the purchase of our plaza; the Community Engagement cycle; the 100-Year Vision; shareholder Open Houses to review new building proposals – and then the blasting & excavation, and building this new building. It’s been sort of like raising children: we can still feel every moment, but it’s also gone by very quickly. The shareholders have been faithful, sticking with the Co-op through thick and thin, still shopping when they could barely find parking spaces. And now, we’ve got our new building!  
The Co-op’s value to our community
In creating this wonderful, new building, the Brattleboro Food Co-op and the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust have created more than just a larger, better-designed store and new, in-town affordable housing. We are all involved in crafting a centerpiece for our community – which will bring people to the downtown area, who will not only shop at the Co-op but also help to stimulate the downtown economy. In turn, this positive effect will ripple through Brattleboro, Windham County, and even the state!
Personally, I’m so looking forward to our new building, as I know that it carries with it the good karma of all of our shareholders. To me, the Co-op has always been the focal point of our community – and now, we can spread the reach of the Co-op much further. It’s going to be a wonderful place to shop, a beautiful store that will be a showplace for consumer coops and for downtown Brattleboro!
John Hatton, 
member since 1991, BFC Board 2004-present

I can’t wait to shop at the new Brattleboro Food Co-op. It’s exciting to watch the final stages of construction. When I think of all of the careful consideration, planning, and soul searching that have lead to this new building, I’m inspired by what we can achieve when we work together.
Bill Murray, 
member since 1983, BFC Board 2002-2010

In 2002 and 2003 I was a director on the Co-op board while we were deciding long-term strategy. Grand Union on Putney Road had closed and that 23,000 square foot building was available. The question was, should we move or stay downtown?
If we stayed, we knew we would eventually outgrow the current facility, even taking over the entire building, which would max out at 17,000 square feet. We decided to ask BFC customers, “Would you shop at the Co-op if it were located on Putney Road?”
The survey was inconclusive. Large pluralities answered “Yes” and “No,” with the rest answering “Maybe.” Adding the “maybes” to either the yesses or nos created a majority. In the end, it was the intangible of the Co-op’s commitment to the downtown community—to act as an economic and social anchor—that tipped the scales in favor of staying.
As we watch the new building form before our eyes, and realize how important the Co-op truly is to the socioeconomic fabric of downtown—the core of Brattleboro—our decision looks wise indeed.
Jay Jacobowitz, 
member since 1997, BFC Board 2000-2003