By Sabine Rhyne
What a difficult September we all had at the Co-op! With the late summer temperatures and humidity spiking well into the month, we found that our refrigeration equipment was struggling mightily to keep on keeping on. So, our refrigeration technicians kept tweaking, only to have the system begin to break down. As temperatures in the coolers were rising, we hurried to put all that we could on deep discount, a one-day Filene’s basement festivity that benefited more than a few lucky shoppers, seen exiting with stacks of frozen pizzas and bags of frozen fruit.
Thanks to some quick work by Dawn, our Foodservice Manager, we were able to get a refrigerated truck to load in some of our product, while Jim at Dottie’s made room in his cooler and freezer. But we ended up donating large amounts of food to all the area food shelves, thanks to Anna Edson’s flurry of phone calls to all our food shelf partners. In the end, we suffered a great loss of sales for the end of September while the situation was resolved, and it took several weeks before everything was stable enough to load the ice cream. I know some of you were very aware of this… Ice cream, by the way, requires temperatures of about -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Other products are less finicky, but ice cream is, well, special. I am happy to report that now we seem to have worked out the problems with the system. It took our refrigeration company, the manufacturer, and Ian, our own Facilities Assistant Manager, to figure it all out. It cost a pretty penny too. We will get some help from insurance for some of the lost product, and for some of the lost sales, but the balance of our losses in addition to the actual work and parts are a tough financial pill to swallow. On the bright side, we had been planning a freezer reset, so this did make things come up a little sooner than planned. We are expanding the selection in our meat and seafood departments, and we’ve replaced some of the items that were not selling well with other products, so be sure to check things out. I have been most grateful for the positive and mindful work of our entire staff, all of whom were affected in some way by this series of events.
We’ve also been working hard on our product mix and our competitive pricing. We’ve introduced the Co+op Basics program, a selection of products at an everyday value price. So now, in addition to great specials through both the Co+op Deals program every two weeks (green signs) and the monthly in-store flyer (seasonal signs), look for the introductory endcaps and the products throughout the store at deep everyday discount (purple signs). We’ve started with products throughout the center store by Field Day brand, but you will see more and more items in all departments that reflect basic staples at low everyday prices. We are very excited by this new dimension in our offerings for you, and we appreciate the work of our national co-op organization, NCG, to bring us these value products. In addition, we’ve been working with our buyers to refine our pricing approach and our product selection. This is a work in progress that requires constant vigilance, so we will be continuing to explore tools and methods to assist our buyers in our quest to be an even better grocery store.
So, despite the struggles in the beginning of the fall, we are poised and ready to have a great holiday season; we hope that you will enjoy coming to the store throughout the next few months as we create excitement of all kinds throughout the aisles. Our Co-op, like all co-ops, is a precious thing to have in our community. In one of our Co-op Conversation series, one of the attendees said exactly that, and we invite you to come to our Annual Meeting at Scott Farm on Sunday, November 8, both to hear what we are thinking about and to give your input on what we should be incorporating into our plans. Remember the Co-op difference: you drive this bus. Your elected representatives on the Board of Directors are charged with listening and guiding, while we, your staff, try to execute that vision to the best of our capability. None of this can happen without your participation, both as an engaged owner, and most especially, as a loyal shopper. Vote for your board representatives online (https://eballot.votenet.com/bfc/), a quick and easy process, or come pick up and drop off a paper ballot in the store before November 22. Come have brunch on a beautiful apple farm and discuss our performance and our plans. And come into the store to share the bounty of a prolific season with all of your friends and neighbors!