September - General Manager’s Blog
By Kenna Eaton
Each month, I report to the board on how we are progressing on our long-term goals, which we call our Ends. These Ends reflect our aspirations—what we want to accomplish—and they are what makes us different from a regular grocery store. We publish these reports as a blog to keep our member-owners up to date on what we are doing. This spring, the board finished reviewing and revising our Ends with the help and suggestions of our staff and our members.
The reports are organized by our five Ends, although not all are discussed in every report. Our refreshed Ends say that, as a result of all we do—
Our community is well-served by a strong cooperative grocery store, integral to the lives of our customers, our farmers, and our producers.
Our community has a resilient local and regional food economy, supported by our Co-op and our community partners.
Our staff and board have the knowledge, skills, and passion to make our cooperative thrive.
Our members and customers are proud to shop at a local cooperative grocery that is working to reduce its impact on the environment.
Our community is informed, engaged, and empowered to join us in making a difference.
September 2018 GM Report
The expansion project continues to truck along, and with the walls of the addition going up, it’s beginning to feel real and very exciting. While we have experienced a few delays, none have had a significant impact on our timeline so far. Shoppers can expect to see changes in early October, when the addition is mostly completed, allowing Receiving to move from the south entry into their new space. At that time, we will change the store entrance from the north entry to the south. Then we’ll begin work on the north entry, which will include digging down deep, cleaning out any bad landfill, and replacing with Controlled Density Fill (CDF) just as we did under the addition. We think this phase will take about a month, during which all customers will need to use the south/waterside entry.
In the meantime, sales continue to be good, and our staff continue to keep the shelves stocked with everyone’s favorite items. Good news! We expect a new crop of olive oil from La Riojana soon. This co-op from South America makes awesome organic oils and wines, available for sale only in co-ops—a great example of co-ops supporting co-ops!
Food System Development
Local is peaking in produce! As of the middle of August, over 15% of total store sales were from locally produced goods (compared to 10% earlier in the year), while in the produce department, just over 35% of total sales were from locally grown food and plants. Tomatoes, corn, melon, strawberries, blueberries—the list goes on of the amazing locally grown produce currently available.
During the last month, we have purchased three new local items: brioche buns from Oystercatcher Bakery on Whidbey Island, PT Vineyards Discovery White wine, and Strait Up magazine by Thunderbull Productions. We grew the number of Washington products by 22. Nine of these are beer or wine and eleven are in chill. We are ordering from a new dairy distributor that provides Castle Rock raw goat milk, Twinbrook dairy in glass bottles, and Pure Eire dairy products. Pure Eire has organic, A2, grass-fed, raw milk in glass, although not all of their products are raw or in glass. We are also trying out some of their yogurts, buttermilk, and cream.
We also brought in Patagonia Provisions’ breakfast grains, three flavors that contain buckwheat grown in Chimacum by FinnRiver! Check it out http://ow.ly/jGNF30lw6cT. Or for a longer story that also talks about Lummi Island Wild’s co-operative fishing practices, watch the video Unbroken Ground by Patagonia Provisions.
The ongoing issues with our EV charger look like they might be resolved soon. Power Trip thinks they have identified the problem, so now they will either repair or replace the unit and get us back up and running.
We’ve been busy working on our 2017 Sustainability Report. One fun statistic is that it looked like we had increased our waste diversion rate from the landfill from 65% to 68%—or so we thought! After digging further, we discovered that staff had previously calculated the weight of pallets being recycled incorrectly, so that new number jumped from 78,000 pounds to 124,000 pounds. Still, while we did not actually improve our waste diversion rate, we now have a more realistic number against which to measure ourselves and our progress.
Our FUN committee threw an amazing BBQ party for staff in mid-August. We were fed great food from the Co-op, with Jacob, our meat manager, grilling up a storm with his own secret recipe for “backyard burgers.” Attendees were eligible to win cool prizes and play games with their co-workers like badminton and disc Frisbee. We also welcomed back Rodney Just as grocery manager. Rodney is excited to be back in Port Townsend, back at the Co-op, and is jumping feet first into getting to know his new/old team, our products, and our members.
Jacqui and Deb went to NCG’s Convergence, which was rich with connections at many levels. One level of connection was lots of time together away from the daily demands of the store. They also made connections with other stores who are remodeling, resetting, etc., plus they had interesting conversations about trends in both grocery and wellness. They also made connections with vendors, including those local and Washington vendors working with Patagonia Provisions. (Note: NCG is a cooperative of food co-ops to which we belong.)
In preparation for internal changes in our IT department, we’ve been working on improving our systems. One of our IT techs was working for a time in our POS department, and they were able to use that knowledge to help begin working on the switch to our new labeling software, saving us time while increasing our knowledge base. Additionally, we’ve been using Planner, one of the Office 365 tools, to keep all the projects we are working on in a single location and keep the team in constant communication. Planner also allows us to keep records of special projects all in one location, which makes a big difference in our effectiveness.
Summer classes are going well this year. We held four classes in August—plus an “Ask the Chef” demo in the store—with a grand total of 66 attendees. This summer we’ve added online evaluations for all of our classes so we can learn more about what works, what doesn’t, and what else we can teach. So far we’ve received many positive comments, such as this about Sidonie’s cooking class: “Excellent, fun, interesting, delicious, and learned a lot from the experience…. just tasting all the different items informed my palate.” And this from our Zero Waste Living class: “Learning how I can bring containers to Co-Op and fill from bulk supplies. This will reduce my plastic ‘throw-aways’ greatly. I also loved that when we shop, we need to think about ‘Am I buying this to throw away?’" And finally from our Kitchen Medicine class: “Very helpful, useful easy-to-do information, engaging presenter.”