We did it! On June 19th, we finally opened wide our doors to the brand new Co-op. In what represents the culmination of our rebrand as Berkshire Food Co-op, the new store is truly an amazing and beautiful space that the community already seems to love. Comments have been overwhelmingly positive, and the cafe is bustling with customers enjoying our increased offerings and the company of the community.
I would like to thank our amazing and hard working staff, our dedicated volunteer Board of Directors, and all of the Co-op’s Owners for having the imagination and patience to join together in a common vision, and bring this dream to life. I would like to thank our generous Owner lenders, the Cooperative Fund of New England and their lending partners for financing the project. I would like to thank Tierney Construction and their subcontractors Dobbert Mechanical, and Gable Electric in particular, for the fit out work. I would like to thank our good friends and partners at the National Cooperative Grocers for all of their expertise in putting together amazing food co-ops and helping us put ours together. Finally, I would like to thank my closest advisors and friends Jill Maldonado, Marketing Manager and Ted Moy, Store Manager. I would not have been able to do this work and get to this day without their support, friendship, compassion, and of course, countless hours, days and years of hard work! All told, the Co-op has made a $4.5 million dollar investment right here in downtown Great Barrington and we couldn’t have done it without the generous support of all of you, our Owners, staff, Board of Directors, our valued partners, and the greater Co-op community.
From our humble roots on Rosseter Street to the reimagined Co-op we see today, one common thread has always woven our past and our future together. That thread is Community. In 1981, we were founded by the community to bring good food to our friends and neighbors. And even though we have had to evolve the business of the cooperative in the pursuit of relevance and continued viability, to this very day we have stayed true to this mission and will never lose sight of it as we continue to grow. Because we all own this grocery store together, the Co-op will always be a community hub and gathering spot. It will always be the place to meet great friends and enjoy great food.
Every day the Co-op leverages the assets of the community in creative and cooperative ways, using the economic vehicle of a grocery store to effect social and environmental change. Last year alone, the Co-op purchased over $1 million dollars in goods and services from local farms, food producers and other businesses. We plan to grow that to over $2 million by 2023. In addition we purchased over $2 million worth of local goods and services as a result of our expansion. This year the Co-op added 10 new jobs and increased its minimum wage to $13/hour with this expansion. We are on pace for $15/hour minimum by 2021, 2 years in advance of the state mandate to do so. We invested thousands of dollars and touched the lives of thousands of community members through our Education and Outreach programs both in the store and out in the community. We gave thousands of dollars in discounts to our neighbors in need through our HELP discount program. In essence, the Co-op leverages community assets to create positive impact. That’s what this new store represents. The new store is an opportunity to continue to grow our impact on the community and the world...one grain of organic rice or one bunch of local kale at a time.
The opening of the store is somewhat bittersweet for me both personally and professionally. Bitter because with the opening of the new store and the closing out of this project, I will be leaving the Co-op after 15 years. Sweet because of all that I have learned and accomplished in my time here. From my humble roots receiving boxes off the backs of trucks in 2003 to becoming the General Manager in 2016, I think I have literally seen it all at the Berkshire Food Co-op. I have had the good fortune to work with so many great people and make so many friends over the years. I have learned almost everything I know about business, management, grocery stores and food co-ops here. I have helped this Co-op grow its impact on the community and make a real difference in people’s lives all across the spectrum of stakeholder groups. And at the pinnacle of my professional career at this Co-op I can leave saying I made a real, tangible difference. I built a grocery store with my friends. Not just any grocery store, a co-op grocery store. Now that’s something to brag about. Here’s to many more years for the Berkshire Food Co-op! Cheers!