~REMINDER: Task Force Meeting this Monday & Call for BOD Applicants~
Our store will continue to be open to the public on Thursday thru Saturday each week in January. In February we will operate as a buying club, where only members with active accounts on VCShop will be able to order products online.
There is a lot of energy regarding continuing to operate as a buying club after our lease ends at the end of February. The Buying Club survey almost ready to go out. We continue to look for locations (see specs at https://goo.gl/gzcina) and may even be able to afford to pay a bit more rent. Next meeting of the Task Force will be on Monday, January 9 at 7 PM, at Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren, 20402 Beaver Creek Rd Hagerstown. If you care about continuing to have easy access to products from our local vendors after our doors close, this is the meeting to attend! All who contributed to our capital campaign will be receiving an email with details about refunds. Refunds are already in process for those who contributed via GoFundMe.
Thank you again! If we cease buying club operations after February, we will refund pro-rated membership dues to those who paid $35 on or after September 2016 and who request a refund. Please consider being part of Valley Co-op’s Board of Directors, as we regroup as a buying club and work to reopen with an improved storefront! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in receiving an application.
Thank you all so much for your generous contributions to the “Keep Valley Co-op’s Doors Open” campaign. As we near the end of the campaign it has become clear that we will fall short of our goal. Therefore, we are ending it now.
Those who contributed will receive a separate communication regarding their refund.
The Board, together with a Task Force comprised of members, have been looking at alternatives.
Short term we’re considering reverting to a buying club, a model we successfully used during the first three years of our existence. To help us define what a successful buying club might look like, please look for an email with a link to a survey. The survey will arrive right after Christmas.
Longer term we’re looking at possibilities to mount a capitalization campaign and reopen as a store at a different location.
Your involvement is key to our making decisions that benefit the community. Thank you again for your support of Valley Co-op!
Have a great Holiday, and please do watch for the survey form.
Rita Bratcher (President)
Julius Goepp (Vice-President)
Susan Rosenberg (Treasurer)
Joan Erdesky (Secretary)
David Elliott (Board member)
Michael Lehman (Board member)
Lena Rotenberg (Board member)
Following our October General Membership Meeting, the Valley Co-op Board of Directors conducted an anonymous online survey and started a fundraising campaign. Thank you to the 411 households that responded (49% were current members, 22% former members, and 29% never members), and thank you to those who already contributed funds (at the time of this writing, we’re at 24% of our goal!).
We’re still working on a detailed report of the survey results, to be shared next week. Responses were all over the spectrum. On one end were comments such as “I didn’t know you were there,” highlighting the need for us to conduct a professional marketing campaign. On the other end were comments such as “You rock. Please hang in there.”
Between the two extremes respondents provided sobering information about why people don’t shop more at Valley Co-op. Answers to the question, “What percentage of your groceries do you get through Valley co-op?” were low. Even among member households, the segment that shops the most, half reported that they get less than 10% of their groceries at our store. The average response among members was only 19%. Among former members, the average shopping cart was only 5%, and non-members, 2%.
Two of the biggest obstacles for shoppers are that our location is inconvenient, and prices are higher than they can find elsewhere. Other obstacles are still being analyzed, including the hundreds of suggestions received as an answer to “What products do you buy every week that Valley Co-op does not carry?” and in freeform comments to other survey questions.
Whether or not Valley Co-op might revert to being a buying club is not a question that the Board is now focusing on. That issue would be addressed should we need to cease operations as a brick and mortar store.
The ultimate message respondents and contributors to our campaign provided is that our mission matters to many in our community.
128 respondents (!) volunteered to pick up Valley Co-op brochures to distribute. Please pick up brochures at the store at your convenience. Note that, should we close our doors, we will refund pro-rated membership payments made after September 2016 to those members who request it.
18 respondents volunteered to make phone calls to follow up on the GoFundMe campaign. We will get back to you after Thanksgiving, thank you!
We are thrilled that 29 respondents identified themselves as willing to be part of a Task Force working with the Board to keep our doors open. We really need you to help, as we’re short-handed. Please join us for a first meeting from 7-8 PM on Monday, November 11 at the Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren (20402 Beaver Creek Rd, Hagerstown). If you’d like to be part of the task force but cannot make this meeting, please contact us at email@example.com .
The survey results were just being tallied when the board received some unexpected news: the co-op’s lease of the National Pike building will not be renewed for a full year when it expires at the end of February 2017. The owner of the building plans to expand his contracting business next door into the storefront the co-op has occupied since 2014.
“There may be a silver lining in this,” said Cori Rohrer, manager of the store. “A different location could make the store accessible to more people, and could let us offer a wider range of prepared, ready-to-eat foods, too.”
If you have a location you’d like us to consider for a Valley Co-op store, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit http://valleycoop.org/keep-valley-coops-doors-open often to find a link to our GoFundMe fundraiser, as well as access to the survey results (forthcoming next week) and to news pertaining to what the community Task Force, Board and Operations are doing to keep our doors open.
Thank you for your enthusiasm and continued support! Please share our campaign widely.
On Monday, October 10, 2016 the annual General Membership Meeting of the Valley Co-op was held at Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren in Hagerstown. Over 40 member households attended, representing approximately 12% of total membership.
The presentation, titled “Can Valley Co-op Survive?” started with a review of the seven Co-operative Principles followed by a brief history, How Did We Get Here? Discussed was the option of staying open one more year with member financial support, initiatives to increase sales and ways to decrease expenses, and the option to close the store.
Members, suppliers, staff and board of directors all participated in the discussion. The discussion was encouraging and those present were in favor of staying open, offering ideas and resources. Members offered to take brochures to their small businesses, frequented places, meetings, etc., to assist in outreach.
To reach those not able to attend, look for a survey at the beginning of this week. Please fill it out even if you attended the meeting Monday. This is a critical time, so please read emails and other correspondence from Valley Co-op.
A decision will be reached by December 31 whether to keep the store open or to close the store and address the other three options proposed.
Valley Co-op is pleased to welcome South Mountain MicroFarm as a new supplier of sustainably-raised, chemical free produce (& fish!) right here in Washington County, MD! Started in 2014, South Mountain MicroFarm is located on a 30 year old Christmas tree farm that is being restored to life by the Sellers Family. Some of our customers may remember Levi Sellers from when he was an assistant store manager for Valley Co-op a few years ago. Levi, along with his family, have added an aquaponics greenhouse to the farm to expand the business with sustainability and the environment in mind.
Aquaponics is a hybrid system that combines organic farming, hydroponics (soiless plant culture), and recirculating aquaculture. This creates an ecosystem in which both plants and fish can thrive. Raising crops in this method is natural, sustainable, safe and uses one tenth of the water that traditional field methods require.
The Sellers will continue to offer Christmas trees and have partnered the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (CASRI) as part of their commitment to sustainabilty. For EVERY Christmas Tree purchased from their farm, TWO will be replanted…one on their farm and another planted as part of an ecosystem restoration project.
This week is the first harvest for South Mountain MicroFarm and they are bringing their first lettuce pickings direct to Valley Co-op’s store. Lettuces will also be ready to order this weekend and soon to follow other vegetables and sustainably raised tilapia!
Stay tuned for more exciting news from this up and coming entrepreneurial farm!
South Mountain MicroFARM is located at:
6138 Clevelandtown Rd.
Boonsboro, MD 21713
Learn more on the web at: www.southmtnmicrofarm.com, or
~Four Business Options to be presented at next Annual Membership Meeting~
For more information, read this letter from the BOD.
Just when you thought you’ve tried all the different types of nutbutters out there, something new and crazy pops up. These nutbutters are flying off our shelves with fun flavors like “Cinnamon Roll”, “Peanut Butter Brownie” and “It’s a Zoo” (Peanuts, Cashews, Animal Crackers, Chocolate chips, &Dried Bananas). We are also carrying Blind Spot‘s Thai Peanut sauce in store.
From York, PA, Blind Spot uses sustainable, non-GMO products in every blend and organic certified sweeteners and other ingredients as possible. Read more about the origins of their unique business name and other product info on Blind Spot‘s website. You can also follow them on Facebook @blindspotnutbutters