Who We Are
Berkshire Food Co-op was founded in 1981 by local families who wanted to provide our community a place to shop, gather, eat & learn by offering good food and sustainable products at reasonable prices through cooperative ownership and responsible business practices.
Berkshire Food Co-op is the center of a flourishing community that:
Cultivates generosity, cooperation, and care for our environment
Invigorates the local economy through equitable relationships and support of the cooperative movement
Engages our greater community through education and outreach
Is the trusted source of healthful food for all
Berkshire Food Co-op will operate with the following goals:
To be a transformative force in the community;
To serve as a model of a sustainable business alternative;
To nurture social and economic well-being in an environmentally sensitive manner.
What is a Co-op?
"A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. "
-- International Cooperative Alliance
The Seven Cooperative Principles
Co-ops are based on values similar to those many of us subscribe to individually, including self-responsibility, democracy, equality, honesty and social responsibility.
Seven basic international principles serve as guidelines to provide a democratic structure for co-ops around the world.
Voluntary and Open Membership
Democratic Member Control
Members' Economic Participation
Autonomy and Independence
Education, Training and Information
Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Concern for Community
National Cooperative Grocers (NCG)
National Co+op Grocers (NCG) is a cooperative of retail food co-ops located across the country. They represent over 200 stores with combined annual sales of nearly $2 billion. NCG unifies food co-ops to optimize operational and marketing resources, strengthen purchasing power, and offer more value to natural food co-op owners and shoppers everywhere.
We were created by and for families in the Berkshires to bring good food to our friends and neighbors.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s local folks formed buying clubs so they could get better food at better prices. They’d meet in someone’s garage or a community center once a month to break down large quantities of food and split the costs.
Although the buying clubs met many families' needs, it was still difficult to source fresh produce. People still had to go to local stores to buy what they couldn’t get through the club or what they needed until the next club order arrived.
In the late 1970s, the idea of a cooperative grocery store was born, facilitated by the Southern Berkshire Community Action agency. Organizing efforts began in the spring of 1980.
By the fall, the group had raised nearly $5,000 and chosen the Granary building on Rosseter Street in Great Barrington for the store's location because it was affordable and the right size. By opening day in November 1981, membership had reached 160 families.
The Early Years
When the Co-op first opened, there was no fresh produce and very few refrigerated or frozen items were available.
The First Expansion
When annual sales topped half a million dollars in 1993, the members decided to renovate the Rosseter Street location and expand to fill the site's full 2,200 square feet. The Co-op doubled its floor space and increased product selection by 70%. During the expansion celebration in August 1993, members admired the wider aisles, new lighting and flooring, and the quieter store (cooler and freezer compressors were moved outside).
In the winter 2001 newsletter, Beth Skinner, then president of the board, wryly noted, “We could win a retail award for how much inventory is packed into our small space.”
Two years later, an in-town location was selected in a building on Bridge Street and Co-op members made loan pledges totaling $420,000.
At 12 pm, October 27, 2003, we opened our doors to an excited and happy crowd eager to be the first to shop in our beautiful and spacious new store.
Thirteen Years later…
After moving to Bridge Street one hundred percent of the Owner loans for relocation were paid back and the Co-op continued to grow.
Known for great food, a welcoming community, a firm commitment to local agriculture, support of the local economy, and dedication to environmental stewardship and educational outreach, the Co-op achieves over $8 million dollars in annual sales, employs about 60 people, and has a community reach that the founders may not have imagined possible more than 30 years ago.
Once again, we are bursting at the seams and our current space is unable to facilitate sustainable growth. A new and larger space has become critical for our continued success. Just as they did for previous expansions, Co-op Owners rallied to raise money. This time, they raised an impressive $1.4 million in Owner loans. Ground was broken in March 2018 and we expect to open the doors of our new store in the Spring of 2019, marking a new chapter in Berkshire Food Co-op’s history--the first time the Co-op will occupy a space that has been built just for us!
The Co-op will nearly double in size, again, expanding to fill 7,600 square feet of retail space with another 2,700 square feet dedicated to backroom/office space. The new store will feature significantly expanded departments with increased product offerings and a big focus on growing our produce, meat and seafood, prepared foods and bulk departments.
We are looking forward to bigger aisles and a larger cafe, but our mission is bigger than any building we could occupy. The fact of the matter is, a bigger building will help us do more good in the community. Even though we’re only a few blocks from Rosseter Street, we've come a long way. Our shared values have gotten us this far and now, together, we're ready to take this next step in our growth.