An Anniversary Reminiscense
by Alex Gyori
At 8 a.m. on September 28, 1982, I walked into the Brattleboro Food Co-op for the first time as a Co-op employee. Thirty years later, I’m still crossing the threshold, but that of a mature co-op that serves and is owned by thousands more people. Though it looks very different now, BFC is in its essence no different today than that funky Flat Street store.
Superficially, running the store then and now are about the same. The first person, perhaps not fully awake, unlocks the doors in the morning, turns on the lights and checks out the shelves, or fires up the ovens as others arrive to accomplish the regular opening tasks. On Flat Street we never enjoyed the satisfying aromas of the steaming hot coffee and freshly baked scones and muffins as we do today, but the pungent scents of the herbs and spices were powerful enough to rev us up for the day.
At 9 o’clock we would unlock the front door, turn around the slightly dog-eared open/closed sign, and soon we would hear the footfalls of members coming up the outside steps. The sleepy pace transformed quickly into a high-energy marathon. Crossing paths with many of those same members today, with perhaps just a wordless, happy smile of recognition, creates in me a deep sense of satisfaction.
I don’t miss the old Flat Street store, though it makes me smile to think about it. Even when cleaned it still looked dirty—the two-by-fours and uneven floors, the nails that caught our mop threads, the fluorescent yellow stone wall, the bubble gum pink of the produce prep, the crowded aisles, and gummy honey and oils dispensary. The store spun a kaleidoscope of experiences, and I remember it with a certain amount of affection—though once in a while, the day’s work almost over, some of us coordinators would descend quietly into the basement, close the walk-in freezer door behind us, and vocally exhale the pent-up
intensity of the day.
The discussions and debates, the disagreements and decisions of those days shaped the personality of our business. The topics have changed, perhaps, but rethinking how we actualize our values continues, and rightly so, as there are many more of us now. Our new building, still somewhat unfamiliar, is a clear example of many years of collective learning and dreaming, forming new ideas and making bold decisions.
There is so much more that I could write. Truly it would take a book or maybe two to do justice to the life that I have lived deeply involved in the Co-op, over a span of time from my early adulthood, working to support a young family with two children, through middle age and on till today, the two sons grown and fledged, late adulthood and thoughts of retirement no longer uniquely part of someone else’s reality. What a journey it has been!