February General Manager’s Blog

by Kenna S. Eaton, General Manager

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.

February General Manager’s Report

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Market Relevance

This past month has been all about expansion, from closing the north entry door to preparing to move the Bulk and Wellness Departments into their new spaces. Each of these moves takes a large amount of preparation and planning. We need help from electricians as well as our own Repairs and Maintenance crew and IT support, plus the support of many NCG (National Cooperative Grocers) specialists, plus lots of work from our own staff to make these moves successful. Fortunately, everyone has been incredibly helpful, and our members have been unbelievably understanding and supportive of these changes.

New signage has begun to appear in various departments. We’re particularly pleased with the new signs for Prepared Foods that alert customers to different key aspects of each dish we make, from vegan to wheat-free. So far, the response has been very positive.

On January 17, we had to unexpectedly close the store from 3 pm until 9 pm when our drains became clogged. Luckily, the general contractor and his team contacted Coon Plumbing, who were able to quickly diagnose and clean out the problem. The Co-op re-opened the next morning at the regular time.

Food System Development

It’s been a slow start for new local items in 2019.  Since the beginning of the year, we have had four new regional products—all beers—and no new local items, although Oystercatcher Breads from Whidbey Island has relocated and rebranded as the Little Red Hen Bakery. Comparing 2018 to 2017, there were eight more local vendors, and our overall Local 5 sales in dollars were up a few percent, but the percent compared to total sales was the same. Our overall Local Washington sales were steady, both in dollars and percent.  We had one additional vendor from greater Washington in 2018. 

Thriving Workplace

In January we implemented the 401k program for staff. It was a serious amount of work and paperwork for our Human Resources staff to navigate, but with some great team work and lots of support, we got it done. Currently 30 out of 80 eligible employees have opted to participate, which seems like a great number to us given that we are currently unable to offer an employer match.

Environmental Stewardship

In mid-January, a small group of stakeholders met to discuss the possibility of a commercial composting program in the City of Port Townsend. Attendees included Greg Lanning, City of Port Townsend Public Works Director; Jeff West, who has a commercial composting business in Port Orchard; and representatives from QFC, Aldrich’s, the Farmers Markets, and Fort Worden. The meeting was informative and collaborative, and we look forward to seeing the outcome of this work.

Outreach

The winter issue of the Commons was available in the store and in the Leader in early January. New classes and workshops seem to be doing well—that is, they’re filling up early—and we’re excited to see what Spring will bring. We will be re-running our “Zero Waste Lifestyle” class this Spring, along with a menu planning class to help build a culture of appreciation for food management at home and at work. The instructor for the Zero Waste class is also writing an article for our spring newsletter. We’re also hosting a six-week class on “Growing Groceries.”

I’m very excited about the “Cooperative Housing Summit and Network Event” on March 24, co-sponsored by the OCN (Olympic Cooperative Network). This afternoon gathering is designed to introduce housing cooperatives to each other, to give them the platform to build a network, and to help established and new cooperative housing groups grow and prosper.