by Sabine Rhyne
It’s really so much more than customer service. “We always try to ensure that the customer leaves happy and satisfied,” says Diane Fontaine, the Front End manager for the Brattleboro Food Co-op. “We’re always respectful of each other, staff and customers.”
Yes, this is what we want from the cashiers and customer service assistants in any store that we shop in. But the scene at the Co-op is so much more than that.
“There’s one particularly amazing customer who brings us cookies from time to time, and is always inquiring after us—so positive!” says Diane.
“I can remember when I had my son,” Hillary adds. “All the customers watched my pregnancy, and then when I left to have the baby, every day they would ask about progress, so many of them, every single day!”
Emily adds that she remembers a shopper splurging on a collection of personal care items, saying, “Yes, and I decided that I am worth it!” which Emily described as a powerful moment!
The Front End department has a close relationship with many Co-op customers, most of whom are long-time members. Cashiers talk about the joy of watching shareholder’s children grow up in the Co-op, and then even work there! Shareholders have that same feeling about the Co-op and its staff: they have watched the Co-op grow up too, and have developed long and deep relationships with so many of the staff over the years. But everyone eventually passes through the front end, and so these relationships really do develop over time, a kind of Co-op intimacy.
When things are particularly difficult, such as after the tragedy last summer, Co-op shareholders overwhelmingly embraced the staff, helping in so many ways to work through those difficult days. One shareholder couple marched in at 8:00, with flowers for each check stand in the front end, and all cashiers knew of the depth of feeling that was being expressed.
And similarly, when things are amazing, such as the days when we all experience our new store for the first time, Co-op shareholders will share in the joy with all staff, but particularly across their purchases in the cashiers’ lines.
“I am really excited about the new store,” says Diane. “To start in a new environment, that is clean and new, I cannot wait. Even the moving is exciting!” She notes the thrill of the multi-use aspect, with apartments above the store. “I hope this new building continues to inspire more good spirit and kindness going forward; it’s so wonderful to be a part of giving this resource to the community: it’s for them, for us all!