News from the Co-op's annual meeting

The first half of the meeting was reports from various Co-op committees.

The most interesting items, in my view -

1. Gross revenues for the year are up over budget estimates by 5.4% at the Eastside store and by 6.1% at the Westside store. For the third quarter (July to September), they're up 9.2% at the Eastside and 6.8% at the Westside. Margins are more or less on budget. Cash on hand is back up to the levels of a few years ago at $190,000.

2. The Co-op has 191 new regular members for the year (not counting senior or low-income memberships), about even with membership withdrawals.

3. In August, the Co-op got reasonably close to buying a piece of property downtown for the expansion project, but the Board decided to put the project on hold until next year in the face of a number of large uncertainties - the slow recovery from the recession, anticipated local State layoffs, possible further drops in downtown commercial property values, concerns about providing adequate parking at the site, possible effects of sea-level rise, and concerns about the extent to which the organizational changes the Co-op may need to function as a still bigger outfit may still need work...

(T. J. Johnson focused on this last issue in his personal remarks as a candidate. I'm not quoting him, but he basically said he thinks the Co-op has to make an thorough and careful study of how well the systems that worked when we were a little outfit with one store twenty-five or thirty years ago are working now that we're a multi-million dollar a year business, and how well we can hope they'll work if we add another store and another 30 or so staff members to the collective.)

4. So for now, the Board decided to focus on trying to fix some of the current problems at the existing stores - and here's the big news... on October 4th, the Co-op bought the little blue house, with a two-story garage remodel behind it, across the alley from the parking lot. The Co-op paid cash, and now owns it free and clear, although tenants are living in it and we don't get possession until January.

(It's zoned retail, so it can't be used as a separate office building, which would be the simplest solution to one of the Westside store's most pressing needs, but apparently it could include some additional office space.) T.J. - with his Expansion Coordinator's hat on, not his Board Candidate hat - urged members with design ideas about how to expand the Westside Co-op using the new property to send them in...

 

Comments

westside re-design ideas

Roof-top café and a forest canopy skywalk bridging the current store with the new buildings?!

That sounds pretty nice...

I don't know if you'd be allowed to span the alley, though - or how high you'd have to be to provide clearance for trucks underneath it if it is legal. I've been wondering about this in relation to Rob Richards' project about getting people to take over and transform some of the alleys downtown...

(After the meeting, I did ask T. J. Johnson about the possibility of vacating the alley; it's quite long, and you'd have to have the agreement of every property owner on the whole thing, so he thought that was pretty much impossible.)

Best wishes,
Thad

 

The alley was an interesting piece.

What I learned from this property acquisition was that the Westside store will likely never be physically expanded. It has a unique zoning designation that prevents it from going up, even to two stories, and then the alley and parking requirements that prevent it from expanding out. That's why this acquisition was so critical. Being able to move all of the office space along with some retail to the new property will allow us more room for warehouse, retail, and customer service in the current space.

In an alley downtown, and I have no idea if this would apply on the west side, you have to give 14' of clearance. So any lights, signs, artwork, etc would need to be over that height. I really don't see any kind of pedestrian bridge in the future, mostly because that alley will never be busy enough to justify it.

Shouldn't there be a plan in

Shouldn't there be a plan in mind before purchasing the property? How about a zoning change? A garden center would be nice.

Ideas

For this deal, we had to move fast. We knew we wanted/needed more space, and that this would clearly provide it, so we moved on it, now we get to do the fun part: designing it.

A garden center has been mentioned a few times, as has a teaching garden and kitchen for community classes. I'm not sure exactly what it's going to look like in the end, but it's a fun process.

YES Garden Center! and community space

A garden center would be wonderful and support folks growing their own food.

Also, space could be rented out nightly for meetings of local groups which is really needed since the free school is no more and Traditions or churches are the only space for meetings I know that POWER is looking for a place to be located.

It could be a community oriented design supportive of all sorts of local groups.

community center

The coops could move in a direction that would eventually lead to providing space for community meetings and events after retail business hours...

...I know the ENA would support a community center project with a partner like the OFC.

Late Hours

They're open until 9:00 PM, seven days a week, at this point. Maybe there will be a space for meetings in the office area...?

Best wishes,
Thad