by Sabine Rhyne, General Manager
I have had ample occasion to think about our cooperative over the last few months: what I hope for, what I think our cooperative could be in this community, and what our owners, all 6,700 of them, might want our cooperative to be. Once my selection as General Manager was announced, I was overwhelmed with positive interactions, from staff, shareholders, and shoppers. In fact, those interactions continue still. I have people coming up to me in the street, and even on the hiking trail, telling me how happy they are that I am to lead our Co-op.
That has been the most moving thing of all. “You are the right person to lead our Co-op.” Yes, our Co-op. Forty years of being in business is a wonderful thing. Forty years of holding things together, working through significant challenges and trauma, successful partnerships, and national cooperative solidarity—all of that is amazing. But most amazing is that our shareholder members truly understand that this is our Co-op. I am humbled by all the work that has come before, from the idealistic and undaunted group of founders to my long-term predecessor Alex Gyori and all the committed staff and enthusiastic shareholder members who have contributed time, energy, and vision to our organization.
We took a leap with this new store. We upgraded our facilities quite radically, we attempted to address our community’s needs with the partnership with the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust, we held true to our goals with many ecologically-conscious attributes, we used local products and contractors wherever possible, we expanded our selection and our services. Some of those decisions were difficult ones, and some meant that we bit off a large chunk. But here we are, anchoring our Main Street. We have continued to weather a variety of challenges and setbacks of all kinds. But still, we advance our dreams of supporting so many local vendors, of assisting our community partners in all the ways that we can, and of employing and developing good staff.
What I ask of you is to shop our store. Yes, continue to push us on our product mix, our prices, and our service. We need you to engage us to be the best we can be. I commit to you that we are working hard on our price competitiveness, and on refining our product line to provide the best choices we can, for quality and for value. In return, we need you to shop at the Co-op. We need you to tell your friends and neighbors why they too should shop at the Co-op. Those purchases get us that much closer to being what we can be. Remind your friends who are struggling economically that their dollars spent here are reinvested into their own community, that we have programs to make it even easier to purchase nutritious and delicious foods, that our Co-op truly is their Co-op too.
We will be having some community conversations over the next few months. We will be talking about the natural foods industry and what is happening nationally and globally. We will be offering conversations about cooperatives and what makes them special. We are already making plans for our annual meeting in November (brunch at Scott Farm!) and how we can design a format that engages everyone in the conversation of how we can continue to improve the lives of our community. So, get ready to learn as much as you wish about what we can do together—we will welcome your participation. Or, if you prefer, just shop. We will certainly appreciate that!