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Clintonville Community Market (Co-op) — News & Updates

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Shopping Clintonville Community Market (Co-op) — News & Updates

This topic contains 34 replies, has 23 voices, and was last updated by Posole Posole 2 years, 3 months ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 35 total)
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  • #1053402
    ColumbusHearsAWho
    ColumbusHearsAWho
    Participant

    Since it’s a Co-Op, their minutes are public and can usually be found on their website.

    Reading back to the month that Lucky’s opened, their sales fell off by half. Hard to imagine how they can make up for that decrease in volume.

    #1053571
    lazyfish
    lazyfish
    Participant

    anyone attend the meeting last night? any status updates?

    #1094595

    News
    Participant

    Clintonville Community Market Announces Closure
    September 24, 2015 6:55 pm – Walker Evans

    After 17 years of operation, the Clintonville Community Market (also known as “The Co-Op”) announced yesterday that it will be closing its doors sometime in the next month. Citing a changing landscape in the world of organic and natural food sales, the operating board of the market said that declining profits have left the store with no other choice but to close.

    READ MORE: http://www.columbusunderground.com/clintonville-co-op-closing

    #1094661
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    Who decided on this ?

    Members should decide whether to close.

    Why was there no meeting to discuss and vote on this, but instead a sudden decision ?

    Why the rush to close and sell off the equipment ? No offense, but this seems yet another example of the top-down, secretive decision-making that has damaged this organization. Maybe if we do better to act like a co op, we’ll succeed as a co op ? Please prove me wrong, and I’ll apologize.

    In an open, democratic (aka cooperative) manner, let’s also explore the feasibility of some combination of a worker-run/ volunteer run organization that provides an outlet for local growers and artisans.

    In the meantime, see you at the co op, to seek your support in reversing this decision until there is a community meeting and a vote from as many members as possible.

    EDIT : To be clear : much respect to the intelligence and good intentions of board members, some of whom are my friends. But, in the spirit of cooperation, and kindness, I must do all I can to oppose this decision. The problem isn’t board members. It’s the organizational structure. We’ve yet to root out from our subconscious minds, our habits of top-down decision making that contravene the principles of a cooperative.

    #1094668
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    Members should decide whether to close.

    Can the members of the co-op “decide” to keep it open if the organization can’t make enough money to keep it running and paying the bills?

    Unfortunately, it sounds like it’s going to take a lot more than a vote reversal to keep it alive at this point.

    #1094681
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>TomOver wrote:</div>
    Members should decide whether to close.

    Can the members of the co-op “decide” to keep it open if the organization can’t make enough money to keep it running and paying the bills?

    Unfortunately, it sounds like it’s going to take a lot more than a vote reversal to keep it alive at this point.

    Hi Walker,

    I don’t know if the decision to close is reversible. It might be if there were enough community support, in terms of volunteering and donations, and sustained demonstrative disapproval.

    I’m ignorant regarding bylaws, but according to Trish Clark and co op consultant Garland McQueen, the board’s decision to close is within guidelines, though dissolution requires a vote from members.

    There’s a meeting on Wednesday, September 30th, 7 p.m. at Crestview Presbyterian Church, 350 E. Tulane Rd, where a vote will require at least 50 members to be present.

    An emergency member meeting prior to deciding to close would have been an act of good faith. Instead, a decision was made behind closed doors a week before it was announced. There was no mention of closing at the Sept 16 board meeting.

    But to be fair to board members, some of whom are people I respect, there are probably so many details to iron out with the union, vendors, and other stakeholders that conducting a member meeting would have been an additional task on their already-full plates.

    If members vote against dissolution on Weds, it would make sense to explore the feasibility of :

    (1) a volunteer-run organization in the existing building that retails enough merchandise to cover rent, utilities and other expenses; and

    (2) calling, far and wide, for volunteers, donations, grants, and other help, in order to preserve this place, which is a brick-and- mortar retail outlet for our many vendors, and a node in the eco-conscious community of Central Ohio.

    I’d like to donate 20 hours a week for a couple of months or so

    #1094712

    Analogue Kid
    Participant

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>TomOver wrote:</div>
    Members should decide whether to close.

    Can the members of the co-op “decide” to keep it open if the organization can’t make enough money to keep it running and paying the bills?

    Unfortunately, it sounds like it’s going to take a lot more than a vote reversal to keep it alive at this point.

    Agreed. Sorry people lost jobs but that’s how it goes when the business doesn’t succeed.

    #1094714

    Cbussmallbiz
    Participant

    So why exactly did a member run co-op need a union? Does anyone wonder if that helped start the begining of the end? Are any of the co-op competitors unionized?

    #1094743
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>Walker Evans wrote:</div>

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>TomOver wrote:</div><br>
    Members should decide whether to close.

    Can the members of the co-op “decide” to keep it open if the organization can’t make enough money to keep it running and paying the bills?

    Unfortunately, it sounds like it’s going to take a lot more than a vote reversal to keep it alive at this point.

    Agreed. Sorry people lost jobs but that’s how it goes when the business doesn’t succeed.

    Indeed. Voting to remain open has about as much effect as running off a cliff and not looking down to prevent gravity.

    #1094750
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    So why exactly did a member run co-op need a union? Does anyone wonder if that helped start the begining of the end? Are any of the co-op competitors unionized?

    At this point at least, I can’t do much beyond passing along some of the talks I’ve had with folk associated with the co op over the years. A former general manager told me having a union made it hard to terminate an employee in one or more cases in which that employee was damaging the organization. I trust her opinion on that.

    For what it’s worth, my guess is that unionization was an attempt to remedy existing conflicts that many, if not all, workers were having with management and board members and/or the board in general.

    To my knowledge, the co op is a far cry from being, as you say, “member run,” not to mention worker-run. If it were worker-run, it’d be more congruent, as an organization, with the principles of cooperatives. It’s useful to inquire into whether cooperatives that are worker-run are more adaptive economically than those that involve a top-down, secretive approach to decision-making.

    As I talk with people, so far the cause-of- death seems to be internal struggles among the board, management, and workers. A close look probably shows that Lucky’s isn’t actually a competitor to the co op, when you compare the high level of natural foods integrity of the latter to the compromises on the shelves of the former.

    For what it’s worth, my own observations during multiple visits to the co op every week, month after month jibes with that. I and countless other shoppers or would-be shoppers tried to support the co op, but often resorted to other stores because of the ever-shrinking selection of merchandise.

    The official explanation for that was that the co op was trying to stay within budget. That makes sense, but it’s maybe worth considering whether board members and management tried to save money by shrinking product selection, while increasing expenditures on management pay and consultant fees. It might also be worth looking into the extent to which management and board decisions involved conflicts-of-interest, in order to create safeguards within the bylaws of whatever new co op organization might arise, not to point fingers at any of our fellow community members.

    In that same vein, it’s worthwhile to inquire into the extent to which the board has been open, with workers and the members, about its book keeping. One of my sources says the board has consistently not been open. I don’t know what the bylaws are, regarding that, and I haven’t had any conversations with Marilyn Welke or any other board member about that yet.

    As for loss of business, according to people I’ve talked with, the co op lost a lot of customers, not because of Lucky’s, but instead because the board shrunk the budget of merchandise buyers, reduced retail space, and reduced hours of operation, all the while increasing the budget for management pay. At least that’s what I’ve heard in talks so far. I’ve had access to no documentation. If anyone has info to refute the above assertion, please offer it. I’m convinced it’s responsible to pass along this info, instead of waiting for verification, which may never come. This is a community forum aimed at collective attempts to get at the truth. There is no claim here about presenting definitive findings.

    When things seemed to be going well at the co op, at least in terms of the shopper experience—back in 2010, 2011, and 2012—the shelves were bursting with local, organic, chem-free, vegan, non-GMO products.

    That was a time when there was no general manager nor an assistant general manager. How much money was being saved by not spending money on those positions, maybe $60,000 or $70,000 per year ?

    One source estimates that the co op took on about $100,000 per year in additional expenses due to administrative bloat, all the while cutting back on employee hours and reducing merchandise. But again, so far, that is hearsay. I’ve currently no way to verify that.

    It’s worth looking at creating a new organization that is more true to the principles of a co op. Some features would be having workers on the board, and collective management.

    Despite the intelligence and good intentions of countless people involved with the dying co op, internal conflict over the years has sapped the creativity and adaptability of this organization, resulting in burned out former board members and managers, and workers too demoralized to creatively serve the co op and too intimidated to speak up and speak out.

    It’s reasonable to assume we can do better.

    #1094754
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    A close look probably shows that Lucky’s isn’t actually a competitor to the co op, when you compare the high level of natural foods integrity of the latter to the compromises on the shelves of the former.

    Can you provide a specific example of food integrity disparities between the two? I’ve never noticed anything overtly wrong with the food at Lucky’s.

    #1094757
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>TomOver wrote:</div>
    A close look probably shows that Lucky’s isn’t actually a competitor to the co op, when you compare the high level of natural foods integrity of the latter to the compromises on the shelves of the former.

    Can you provide a specific example of food integrity disparities between the two? I’ve never noticed anything overtly wrong with the food at Lucky’s.

    Lucky’s has a lot of non-organic items. As for Lucky’s relationship with local food artisans and local growers, I’ll gladly admit to being wrong if you or someone else demonstrates how they come anywhere close to the relationships the co op had.

    EDIT: Comparing the commitment to (1) Fair Trade and (2) pasture-raised meat and dairy at Lucky’s with what existed at the co op might also be useful

    EDIT: Producer-retailer-consumer movements such as ‘organic’, ‘pasture-raised’, ‘vegan’, ‘local’, ‘fair trade’, ‘non-GMO’, and so on are rooted in ecology. The co op is likely to be dead soon because it’s organizational structure has been out of step with principles of ecology, that is, it’s top-down management has been a glaring contradiction to the cooperative principles of economic development

    #1094888
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    A little wheat-grass ramble…..

    Board president Marilyn Welker said the following : “Many pieces had to be put in place before an announcement could be made. This was a decision for the board to make, not the members, per our bylaws:

    conversation with union rep to ensure compliance with union contract;
    consulting with one or more lawyers to understand choices, decisions to follow, legal obligations, etc.;
    letters to be written so notification to employees, members, and vendors could be coordinated.

    We realized the decision would have a huge impact on many people. We are on a learning curve–none of us had made such a decision before. Our responsibility is to do the right thing to all stakeholders. And that takes much time, deliberation, and coordination.”

    In another email responding to my question about why the board didn’t seek member input before their decision to close, Welker said the membership, in effect, had “voted with their feet” as shoppers during the past couple of years amid the co-op’s well-publicized difficulties That point is hard to refute.

    Tonight, I spoke with several people who said they agreed that the closing decision should be delayed until there is an open, democratic, community-wide decision.

    But just before posting this, I spoke with a friend who’s a co op vendor. That person said it’s too late to save the co op, because it has about $200,000 in debt, which includes about $50,000 owed to UNFI.

    This co op vendor also said dissolving the co op is the best way forward, given that if it stays for a while longer, a faction of former employees with grievances will continue to try to sabotage the existing organization.

    Others have expressed similar views, saying that the co op needs to dissolve and start from scratch. One person said as much, emphasizing that a new co op should not have a union. Another shopper, John Lotus, said a new co op should not only not have a union but should require members to participate in operations. Another supporter of dissolution said the existing organization is too dysfunctional with internal conflicts to be worth saving

    As for shoppers tonight at the co op who said the decision to close should be suspended to allow for one last attempt at rallying the community to save the co op, they said the board should modify their decision to allow for an open, democratic exploration from members and the community in general before finalizing it.

    This category of respondents said the board should have given members advance notice about the problems, instead of just being told that the decision to close had been made.

    They said that several avenues for increased profitability have not been explored, such as hosting a number of businesses that would increase foot traffic and share a portion of their profits with the co op.

    One long-time employee said “I’d take a pay cut to keep us open, and to be able to have more say in the operations. I thought maybe layoffs were going to be announced instead of closing.”

    There were some shoppers tonight who didn’t even know the co op was closing until I told them, despite the half empty shelves.

    #1095163
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    Within only a total of a few hours talking with folk at the co op (and at Lucky’s), there has emerged a lot of potentially good ideas about what we might do after the current community market closes.

    Amy Rorris suggested we explore having a place for selling bulk items, such as grains, herbs, spices, and teas. That seems to make sense because the herbs and spices selection at the co op has been better than perhaps all other local outlets, with the co op also having competitive prices

    The oatmeal, rye meal, spelt berries, wheat berries, and rye berries from Stutzman Farms is not available at Lucky’s. A co op with a strong bulk items component would maintain the ties between local growers and shoppers. The connection between local growers and artisans and shoppers is yet another thing that distinguishes the co op from Lucky’s and Whole Foods, not to mention other grocery chains.

    On top of that, the ecological integrity of the co op has been way ahead of Lucky’s, Whole Foods, Giant Eagle, and Kroger, in terms of non-GMO, vegan, local, organic, chem-free, and pasture-raised or so-called ‘free-range’ meat, eggs, and dairy.

    The input I’ve gotten so far, barely scratching the surface, is that a new and better co op will be a place that :

    (1) focuses more on what it does best, that is, it’s ecological integrity, and not try to be all things to all people (ie have many of the same mass produced packaged foods and craft beers to be found at Lucky’s and Whole Foods)

    (2) has an organizational structure in which (a) members are required to participate in the operations of the co op, (b) workers are empowered thru board membership and collective management;

    3) The beer-and-wine license should be sold to pay down some debt, given that a new co op doesn’t need to sell alcoholic beverages to serve a community of shoppers that is dedicated to ecologically responsible foods.

    (4) A new co op doesn’t have to have a little bit of everything in an attempt to draw foot traffic from the neighborhood in general, many of whom aren’t concerned about ecologically responsible food.

    Trish Clark and others have already demonstrated an ability to work with social media and local traditional media outlets for marketing purposes, drawing support from all over Central Ohio.

    People don’t have to live close to support the co op. Instead they have to recognize and support a new co op whose product integrity is well above that of Lucky’s, Whole Foods, and other grocery chains.

    (5) While people’s attention is focused on the dying co op, we should (a) utilize the existing membership to organize groups of people interested in building a new sustainable foods retail organization and (b) dialogue with all vendors as well as existing members so as to plan for a new co op, in an open, democratic process.

    (6) Some component of people sitting down and socializing informally or having more structured meetings, while buying items with a long shelf life such as Kombucha—maybe sort of like a coffee shop that sells bulk items, requiring a small staff of workers and/or volunteers. This matters because the Clintonville Community Market has been a node within eco-conscious communities in greater Columbus.

    #1095186
    Kilgore Trout
    Kilgore Trout
    Participant

    I like the idea of some sort of integrated coffee house. There doesn’t seem to be a good one in the Indianola area (north of High). While Yeah Me Too has excellent coffee, I wouldn’t describe it as a coffee house in the same spirit as Cup of Joe on High Street or Staufs in Grandview.

    I live on Crestview (north of Indianola) and have walked to The Community Market several times over the years and will miss it. I love the idea of the co-op, but have always had an uneasy feeling about it’s survival. I confess I was not a member, and used it more as a bodega than as a dedicated market.

    It’s a tricky location. While great for foot traffic, if something at that spot draws too much vehicular traffic, it could be problematic.

    I hope for future success!

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