Up & Coming LOVE

By Michelle Engelman Berns of Long Beach Grocery Co-op in California
 A Valentine for Up & Coming food co-op conference 
“Up and Coming gave me the first hand glimpse into the heart of a co-op; which is its people.” 
My history with co-ops, up to my move to Long Beach 3 years ago, was as an owner/member of North Coast op in Eureka, CA for the last 12 years. So when I heard that Long Beach was striving to build a new co-op here, I contacted Damon Lawrence and said I’m all in.
Fast forward to volunteering for events, and then being asked to be on the Start Up Board of Directors. Long Beach Grocery Co-op (LBGC) also received the  honor of receiving one the $10,000 Challenge Grant from the Food Co-op Initiate and the Bower Fund; which included a trip to the 2015 Up and Coming Conference in Bloomington, Indiana.
One of my first  experiences happened before the conference even started. I had taken the red-eye from Los Angeles and got in around 4:30 a.m. and was waiting for a shuttle to take the hour-long drive to Bloomington. I happened to see another traveler sitting at the bench close to the departure area. It was chilly and raining and I was pretty tired, when I noticed the man reading a novel. After sitting a few minutes at the cold  concrete table, I asked the gentleman if he was also, by chance, going to the food co-op conference.When he said he was, an immediate kinship was formed.
Up & Coming logoYou see,  I know many of you understand the deep river of understanding that is at the heart of the cooperative experience. I knew it first as a customer, and now and an owner member and active learner of the inside workings of what it means to bring a start-up co-op grocery store to life. The gentleman happened to be  Dave Gutknecht; the long time editor of Cooperative Network Magazine. During the course of the conference, He allowed me to pick his co-op brain, we talked about fiction, and most importantly had deep conversations about what friendship within the co-op community means.
Up and Coming gave me the first hand glimpse into the heart of a co-op; which is it’s people. I am very excited to attend this years conference, and to continue my personal co-op education . I am proud of my part in the continuing volunteer co-op commitment to the bring people of Long Beach and surrounding southern California areas a store that will embrace all the Cooperative principles; and the opportunity to bring better health, community, food justice, and education with LBGC.
FCI: Why We Like This:  Because we love helping to bring Up & Coming conference to all startups, and seeing you all there!  If you have not signed up yet, the  Early Bird Discount applies through 2/17/2017. REGISTER NOW!

Durham Co-op Market Named 2015 Startup of the Year

Reposted from June 22, 2015

At the 2015 CCMA conference in Boise, Idaho, June 11-13, Food Co-op Initiative was excited to present the award for 2015 Startup of the Year to Durham Co-op Market (DCM). This award is given to a startup that opened in the last twelve months, after showing careful planning, persistence, and and the skill to bring an idea to fruition as a retail grocery store .

durham-co-op-3-1200xx4000-2250-0-209Located in Durham, North Carolina, DCM opened in March with overwhelming support from the community. Commitment, perseverance, and patience paid off! Since 2007 this community has never lost sight of their vision and have been rewarded with a beautiful new store that is exceeding expectations. Sales in the first few weeks ran up to 50% above projections and 500 new member-owners joined in their first 6 weeks.

Durham’s general manager Leila Wolfrum was at CCMA to accept the award on the co-op’s behalf. She cited the waves of volunteers, board members, community organizations, and staff that worked though the ups ad downs of a startup in an urban area. When the first site selection failed to prove feasible, they had to shift gears and reboot the project. The result is an amazing store that will serve a large community with integrity.   You can read more about Durham Co-op Market and several other new co-ops that opened their doors in the last twelve months in the upcoming issue of Cooperative Grocer.   This award is sponsored by Food Co-op Initiative, CDS Consulting, and Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund.

First Alaskan Co-op Wins 2014 Startup of the Year

Reposted from June 19, 2014.

trophyWe are delighted to announce that Co-op Market Grocery & Deli in Fairbanks, AK is the winner of this year’s Startup of the Year award. Lauded for its leadership, retail excellence, and commitment to building the local economy, Co-op Market beat out twelve other co-ops that opened storefronts since June of 2013.

The Startup the Year award recognizes achievement by a retail grocery cooperative in organizing and opening a successful co-op grocery store. The award–and shiny grocery cart (above)–was presented to Co-op Market’s General Manager, Mary Christensen, at the annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference in Madison, WI in front of a crowd of 500 cooperative managers, staff, board members, and consultants.

The 6,000 square-foot store opened in March 2013 and was brought to fruition by the grassroots efforts of city residents as part of a broader downtown revitalization strategy. Today Co-op Market has 2,680 member owners, 20 employees, and its sales for 2014 are on track to reaching $2.8 million.

Co-op Market has experienced strong growth, far exceeding sales predictions, despite the many challenges of operating in Alaska. Co-op Market sits in a food desert tract where 46% of low-income residents lack access to a healthy food store within a half-mile. This new store serves a community with a high percentage of Native Alaskan households, and one where the average income is only 54% of the median. The Co-op emphasizes local products, providing a retail outlet for small farmers, ranchers, fishers, and producers in the region to sell to their own community.

As Stuart Reid, FCI Executive Director, presented this year’s award, he stated, “Fairbanks’ Co-op Market is a role model for how an organized community can work together to create a cooperative business to meet its needs. While more distant than any startup in modern history, it took advantage of the full support that we and the food co-op community have to offer, inspiring fellow Alaskan communities to do the same.” There are currently three new food co-op initiatives organizing in the state.

There are currently 113 food co-op in development across the nation, and 70 have opened in the past five years, totaling over $155 million in annual sales, 1,006 new jobs, and 88,000 members. Forty more have stated their intention of opening in the next 18 months.

The past year’s store openings include:

  1. Co-op Market Grocery and Deli (Fairbanks, AK)
  2. Second Kitchen Co-op (Boulder, CO)
  3. Near East Side Co-op (Columbus, OH)
  4. Honey Creek Market (Plain, WI)
  5. Hometown Harvest (Mitchell, NE)
  6. All Things Local Co-op (Amherst, NE)
  7. Waimanalo Market Co-op (Waimanalo, HI)
  8. Doylestown Food Co-op (Doylestown, PA)
  9. Purple Porch (South Bend, IN)
  10. Local First Grocery (Manitou Springs, CO)
  11. Dubuque Food Co-op (Dubuque, IA)
  12. Orcas Food Co-op (Eastsound, WA)

The Startup of the Year award is sponsored by CDS Consulting Co-op and coordinated by Food Co-op Initiative.