Farewells, Feedback & Traffic Flow
by Alex Gyori
While considering topics for our end-of-winter newsletter, I experienced the mildly shocking realization that our new store has been open for nine months already! Time has streamed by, so much has happened. To decide what to write, I reflected on my many recent conversations with shareholders, and settled on four subjects: lighting, parking, traffic, and prices. I will discuss prices in next month’s issue. But first, two farewells are in order.
The first, a fond farewell to Whitney Field, part of our team for over 18 years. We congratulate her in taking a position as store manager at the soon-to-open Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, NH. It is a great move for her, and a very good thing for our co-op sector. Opportunities to take on exciting new challenges in the co-op world are not frequent, as there is often extraordinary longevity among employees at most co-ops.
Whitney dedicated a lengthy portion of her working career at Brattleboro Food Co-op. She started off as a “store floater,” trained in at least four departments to work in them as needed. That really didn’t last too long, though, as an opening for bulk department manager arose within just a few months. Having recognized her skills and talents, we welcomed her into that position with no hesitation. She did a great job for us, and the department grew and grew under her guidance.
Whitney’s steadfast commitment and experience really paid off as we planned for and made the change to our new store last year. I think we can all agree that the bulk, dairy, and frozen departments, which Whitney has overseen, are really top notch. Her caring and compassionate approach to managing staff has been a hallmark of her management style, as well. I want to thank her, on behalf of everyone at the Co-op, for the dedication and good spirit that she brought to us. We will miss her, but wish her well at the new co-op!
The new Monadnock Food Co-op will benefit from another of our staff! Pam Croteau, who competently steered our IT department from the old store to the new and set up all of our critical IT systems, has accepted a similar position at the new co-op. Pam did a great job for us, and again, the co-op world will be better off having her in it. All the best to her as she re-enters the fray of a start-up store.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, but no need to tell you about the remaining dark spots in the store. We have a plan to brighten them up, and you should notice improvements over time. The lighting design was fully installed, but the LEDs do not add as much to the ambient lighting as thought. To fix the whole problem, it will take more funds than we have on hand at the moment, so for now it will be small tweaks and adjustments.
Parking Lot issues
We are still getting used to how our new parking-lot configuration works. The most problematic area is right in front of the store entrance. The brick driveway was meant to slow traffic down to make it more pedestrian friendly, but it has turned out to be too friendly! We see folks walking out into the roadway without paying enough attention to traffic. Fortunately, this situation has not resulted in any accidents between cars and people on foot, but it could just be a matter of time. We are working on some solutions to this problem.
Drivers have difficulty backing out of one of the front parking spots partly because of the limited turning allowance, as well as having to wait for incoming and outgoing traffic. It is an exercise in patience when the train stops all traffic in the intersection, too. Needless to say, the whole traffic-light pattern needs some serious rethinking.
Town of Brattleboro and the Junction
And the Town of Brattleboro thinks so, too. At their invitation, we recently met with the town manager and several other town officials involved in traffic matters to discuss the junction and ideas to improve traffic flow. The first issue was the left turn out of the Co-op parking lot. Because the traffic from Hinsdale does not line up exactly with the lane cars use while heading straight or making a left out of our lot, there have been some near misses, particularly with cars that are heading into the Co-op. We have not reached agreement on how to remedy this, but it is good that the situation is being examined.
The town manager also brought up an idea that would help this situation enormously: a vehicular bridge across the Whetstone Brook from our lot to Flat Street. That was in fact an idea that Stevens Engineering studied during our feasibility stage, but for a number of good reasons we needed to set that idea aside. Thinking ahead, though, we did design the parking lot to accommodate such a structure. That the Town of Brattleboro is exploring the idea is good, perhaps resulting in progress sooner than BFC could get back to it. There is no immediate action in the offing, but we will keep this towards the front burner!
Finally, the town asked us if the Co-op would swap the employee parking area in the Preston lot with an equal number of spaces in the Elm Street lot, to allow more public parking for not only Co-op and Dottie’s customers but also other nearby businesses. We have agreed to that, and are right now working out the legal language for a new easement in the Elm Street lot. That will mean a healthy walk for some Co-op staff, but it will serve customers better. For the record, the Co-op currently purchases a number of permits for staff at the Elm Street lot, so it should not be too much of a shock to add the extra steps.
Over the next few months, I will keep you informed as to progress on the various items discussed above, and in next month’s issue I will discuss our price policies. Onward to spring and lots more sunshine!