General Manager’s Blog - September 2019

by Kenna S. 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.

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 General Manager’s Report

Market Relevance

The first half of August was all about preparing our store for the “Grand Reveal” on the 16th. The event was very successful, and I am proud of all the hard work that went into making our store look and feel good in time for the celebration.

Now, we are buckling down to learning how to be great operators in a constantly changing retail environment. For the past few months, we have been challenged by the impending closure of the Auburn warehouse of our primary distributor, UNFI. We frequently did not receive the product we ordered, or we got some of it but not all, or it arrived late, making work more difficult for staff. Hopefully, this problem will be remedied shortly, and we’ll be back to normal. As of August 26, all UNFI orders come from a new warehouse located in Ridgefield, in southern Washington, near Vancouver.

Food System Development

We had two new Local 5 vendors this month: Port Townsend Topicals and Flourish Flowers. We have ten products from PT Topicals—CBD lotions and bath salts, including two bulk bath salts. Flourish Flowers joins four other local vendors bringing us an array of fresh cut flowers. While floral department sales are down from last year, in part due to less soil/compost/amendments being available in 2019, our cut flower sales are up 8% year to date.

Meanwhile, Local 5 meat sales are up 21% in quantity sold and 17% in dollars compared to 2018, partly due to Jacob’s work with local suppliers. Overall meat department sales are up 6% in quantity sold and 5% in dollars. The department gained space in the remodel and several products were transferred from grocery to meat as well.

The hot bar sales in the expanded deli are up 3600 pounds over 2018. Since we opened the salad bar, we have sold over 1200 pounds of cold food. Dang—that’s a lot of potato salad!

Eat Local First has announced the second Farm to Table Trade Meeting will be held November 18 at Fort Worden. Co-op staff have been hard at work creating the marketing materials for this event, designed to bring together local farmers, fishers, grocery buyers, food artisans, chefs, processors, and distributors.

Thriving Workplace

Many members joined us for the tour of the backrooms during the Grand Reveal to see “where the magic happens.” Our new work space is a far cry from our old digs—we have over twice the space, more light, better organization, and improved flow. Thanks again for supporting us during this long project—we love our new home!

The produce team enjoyed a field trip to Midori Farm in Quilcene in late July. If you haven’t had the chance yet, you can read about their visit on our web site under ”the Beet” (www.foodcoop.coop/blog), “Walking the Midori Farm.” Staff were treated to a tour of the farm, with in-depth information about operations—what they grow, how they grow it, and what happens to it afterwards (hint: lots of their produce is turned into kraut!). To see the entire list of Midori products found at the Co-op, check out the Local Produce Calendar on the Co-op’s web site and in the store.

Environmental Stewardship

The 2018 Sustainability Impact Report was published late August. Gathering data for such a report is a yearlong process, and then we spend a few months collating and analyzing the data before writing the report. A hard copy is available in the store and an online version is on our website (www.foodcoop.coop/). I personally enjoy seeing the trends and I’m often impressed by the improvements we’ve made or sustained. During 2018, our usage of double-handled grocery totes (the ones we sell for a nickel) dropped 6%-- which means that our customers (you!) didn’t need as many bags from us. Thanks for being prepared!

Did you know that we now sell many of our deli items in glass mason jars? Currently, we are packing soups, green salads (including those with smoked salmon and chicken), and some composed salads. While we are not technically taking the jars back at this time, customers are welcome to leave the jars in our “jar savers” collection spot in the front entry. We hear olives are next!

Outreach

The Grand Reveal brought in a lot of our community to celebrate the completion of our expansion project. We had a ribbon cutting with the chamber of commerce, free cake made by our amazing deli team, free BBQ corn from Organically Grown Company, doorbuster sales, and some sweet tunes by Jack Dwyer and Friends.

But we didn’t stop there—at the All County Picnic that Sunday, our board of directors and I talked emergency preparedness, and we wrapped up the month by stocking 40 gift bags for the new Port Townsend School District Employee Welcome Back Party.