by Cara Russell
A Food Co-op, member-owned and controlled by the community who uses it, is coming to Orcas! Co-op members will be financially invested and share ownership with the other members.
The Orcas Co-op founding Board of Directors was created earlier this year, and is comprised of Lisa Byers (President), Ken Katz (VP), John Dey (Secretary), Learner Limbach, Marta Nielson, and Jonathan Wolfson, with advisors Jim Bredouw, William Limbach, and Brian Kvistad, among others. Learner Limbach has committed to being the General Manager for a minimum of five years.
“Right now the residents of San Juan County buy less than one percent of their food locally,” said Ken Katz (VP board member). “Having a Co-op in our community will provide access to high quality, local, organic and GMO free foods, and goods. By buying local, islanders keep more money in the local economy, re-investing back to members, paying employees living wages, buying from local farmers, and strengthening the economic community.”
The board choose the building of the Homegrown Market as the desired location, and they plan to open the Orcas Co-op’s doors in the spring of 2014. They have been working with Cooperative Development Services (CDS), a firm that specializes in co-ops. “One of the great things about starting our own Co-op, is we are working with other Co-ops, and we can pick and choose the qualities that we like, and incorporate them into ours,” said Limbach.
However, in order for the Orcas co-op to open next spring, they need to raise significant capital to cover the costs of start-up expenses. The Co-op board has launched a Member Drive (coordinated by Zanetha Mattise) to build community support and help raise the needed capital funding to cover the renovations and other startup expenses.
They are asking that islanders sign up for a member equity investment with a one-time fee of $240. These memberships will enable the co-op to open on time in the spring. The board is relying on gaining 250 founder member owners by November 1—and hope to have 450 founder member owners by January 1, 2014.
Twenty percent of what will the board needs to raise ultimately will come from memberships, while the other 80 percent will come from additional member gifts and member loans. So far the community has shown their support for the project—four individuals have stepped forward with funding above and beyond the initial membership fee.
The remodeling of the Homegrown building will create an accessible and efficient layout both for esthetics and functionality. The upstairs will also be turned into a meeting space for groups, educational classes, and other uses. “We see the co-op as a neighborhood joint, where you do your shopping, take a class, be a part of the cooperative values,” added Mattise. “This is why we are starting it in the first place.”
The Co-op will have:
- A remodeled store (more efficient refrigeration unites, new floors, paint, and lighting)
- Professional marketing materials
- Responsiveness to customer/member input
- A new expanded bulk section
- A new efficient layout (new entry)
- Food and goods produced locally
- Educated, uniformed, & cheerful staff
- A new deli
- Fresh seafood and meats
- Affordable basic food items
- “Full meal” capability
- Clear info about products/vendors
Member benefits include:
- Special orders & bulk discounts
- Patronage refunds
- Member only sales
- Free and discounted workshops and classes
- The opportunity to a vote in a co-op affairs, and run in elections
Whether or not you buy a member investment, anyone can shop at the Co-op—it will be open to all. Everyone can sign up for lectures and classes, and can shop the variety of high quality local food and goods.
The Co-op will carry:
- Organic and non-GMO foods
- Household goods
- Fresh organic produce
- Dry bulk goods
- Quality dairy products
- Frozen meats
- Deli items
- Health and beauty aids
- Beer and wine
- And more
To become a member, show your support, volunteer, or find out more about the Orcas Food Co-op, you can find Mattise (and representatives of the co-op) every Thursday from 5-10pm at the Doe Bay Resort and Retreat for open mic pizza night. Mattise will also have a booth at the Farmers Market (at The Odd Fellows) through Thanksgiving.
Membership materials will be available wherever you find Mattise. You can also sign up to volunteer, join the mailing list to receive updates, or contact the Orcas Food Co-op with any additional questions or comments you might have. Contact Zanetha Mattise 317-8488, email, or go to the Orcas Food Co-op website.