River Valley Co-op and UFCW Local 1459 Complete Successful Mediation Process

July 3, 2017

(Northampton, MA) Leadership of the UFCW, Local 1459, representing the staff of River Valley Co-op, and the management of River Valley Co-op announce today that they met on Monday, June 26th and Tuesday, June 27th for a successful mediation over issues of interest to both parties. With the use of Interest Based Problem Solving, the two parties reached mutual agreement concerning compensation for shuttle time to and from an offsite staff parking lot, as well as increased wages for the lowest-paid employees at River Valley Co-op. The concerted activity grievance was also successfully resolved. Both the Union and the Co-op have renewed their commitment to moving forward with a mutually supportive working relationship.

Jeff Jones, representing UFCW, Local 1459 said of the mediation; "Under the facilitation of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service,(FMCS), River Valley Co-op and the Union Bargaining Committee completed a successful two-day mediation. The long-standing issue of parking has been resolved as well as the role of concerted activity in the workplace. I feel this paves the way for the Co-op to grow and extend further into the community."

"We all felt our community rooting for us to resolve these issues, including our nearly 10,000 co-op owners and their families, our many customers, and the nearly 400 local farmers and food producers we partner with as suppliers. Our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the UFCW Local 1459 includes excellent systems that proved their effectiveness this week for resolving a conflict and improving teamwork between the Union and Coop at the same time. Renewing our commitment to use these systems was central to our success in reaching this resolution for the key people we are both here for; River Valley Co-op's staff. With strengthened teamwork, the collective capacity of our 150+ employees to better serve our co-op owners, customers, vendors and the broader community is also strengthened," said Rochelle Prunty, River Valley Co-op General Manager.

"A successful community cooperative grocery business is key to maintaining and building a vibrant, resilient local food system and locally based economy. The Co-op is proud to stand with the labor movement as a union employer. In the face of increasing corporate consolidation and control of the food system supporting cooperative businesses, other local businesses, and the labor movement are all more important than ever!" said Dorian Gregory, River Valley Co-op Board President.

For more information contact: Jeff Jones Union Representative UFCW Local 1459: (413) 387-9194 (cell); Rochelle Prunty, General Manager River Valley Co-op: (413) 559-7499 (cell)

River Valley Co-op is a consumer-owned cooperative grocery store specializing in fresh local foods located at 330 North King Street, Northampton. Open to Everyone 8AM-10PM.

Co-op 2nd Store Site Search Update

June 12, 2017

We want to let you know that we are continuing to explore locations for a second store. We are prioritizing locations that are close enough to take some pressure off our current store by serving some of our current co-op customer owners but also, far enough away to serve new potential co-op customer owners.

Many of you may remember our current location did not meet all our store site criteria and we passed over it in favor of the pursuit of better retail options repeatedly before we accepted that it was the best realistically feasible option for us. I've often said we found ourselves between a rock and hard place in the site search for our original store and the hard place made the rock look good. 

What made our current location feasible was that 1) absolutely no one else wanted it, 2) it was in the right proximity to a large number of our current and potential co-op owners, 3) there was support for unconventional financing which defrayed the added costs of developing the unconventional site.

As it turned out, even though our current location was not plan A, B, C, or even D...it has been a very good location for launching our cooperative. So good in fact, that we quickly grew to over double what we had anticipated for total sales volume by our 10th year in our 9th year of business. The result is that our current facility does not have the capacity we need to fully serve our community's growing needs as comfortably or as well as we'd like for both customers and staff going forward.

Which brings us back to the second store site search. Working with our real estate broker and second store development team we have found that our two most preferred options are not feasible due to higher than anticipated costs. The commercial real estate market in our area remains on the high end, while competitive conditions for retailers have resulted in pressure to lower development and overhead costs as much as possible.

The result of this real estate/retail business dynamic is that we have turned our focus to seeking out and evaluating some lower rated locations in the commercial real estate market in search of something potentially more affordable in the right general area.   We are also exploring potential co-op friendly development partners that could help support some of the financial load for the co-op to be part of a larger development.

Real estate is a very competitive business so we need to keep the specific location details confidential until we are able to secure an agreement with contingencies.  That agreement will provide security for us to proceed with our due diligence and community fundraising to finalize our arrangements without fear of losing the site to someone who comes along offering a higher price. A site tends to look more enticing to others when they see someone else wants it so we want
ensure we have an agreement with contingencies for final decision-making on a site before discussing it with our co-op owners and publicly.

So far, we've not succeeded in reaching such an agreement on our two preferred sites and we are now actively exploring alternatives. We expect about a 1.5 to 2-year timeline from securing a site to opening.

If you have a great idea for a location please do pass it on to me so that we can confidentially explore the feasibility. We are seeking commercially zoned real estate that is reasonably accessible to a portion of our current customer base as well as strong potential for serving additional customers for whom we are not currently as accessible. You can call email me: rochelle@rivervalley.coop or call:
(413) 341.5686.

We have many value-driven goals in our mission that will be positively impacted by successfully expanding our operations to multiple stores. In the meantime, thank you for your ongoing support!


Shire City Herbals and the Free Fire Cider Campaign

January 14, 2017 

Second open letter to our Membership, Shire City Herbals and the Free Fire Cider campaign: 

As of this time, we will be discontinuing the sale of the Fire Cider® made by Shire City Herbals because of the legal action they have taken against community herbalists for using a traditional remedy and term. This decision is not made lightly. 

In our last public statement regarding this issue, back in June of 2015, we did our best to remain neutral, urging Shire City Herbals and all parties involved to find a peaceful and equitable resolution to the conflicts over the trademark issue. A year and a half later, we do not consider Shire City Herbals’ actions to be working in that direction. 

We had hoped that by stocking multiple fire cider options and encouraging public discourse we could support everyone. We no longer wish to remain neutral on this issue, and in good conscience now choose to remove Shire City Herbals’ product from our store. 

We appreciate the work Shire City Herbals has done to bring popular attention to this traditional remedy. It is unusual for us to have a local supplier with such a successful and effective product in our Wellness Department, and we were excited and proud to promote them in the past. (see the article in our Winter 2014 member newsletter http://rivervalleymarket.coop/newsletter/newsletter-archives ) 

The fact remains that the term “fire cider” was not created by Shire City Herbals and had been in use by herbalists all over the country long before they started making their product. Shire City Herbals did not invent this formula. Decades ago, the basic recipe was published with that name, in a book by Rosemary Gladstar. 

Shire City Herbals initially stated that they trademarked the term solely to protect themselves from a larger entity stealing their success and trademarking it for themselves. They do not support the campaign to officially and legally make “fire cider” a generic term, available to all, stating that this is not possible. Instead, Shire City Herbals has brought legal action against three herbalists: Katheryn Langelier, Mary Blue and Nicole Telkes, and has sent intimidating letters to many other small herbal producers using the name “fire cider” to sell their own versions of the folk remedy. This legal action was in part a response to a petition filed with the USPTO by Mary Blue, made as an attempt to revoke the Fire Cider® trademark. 

We know that many others share our dismay over this issue, thanks to feedback we have received over the last few years from co-op owners, customers and the herbal community at large. Thank you for your concern and engagement regarding this issue. We will continue to stock other brands of this remedy and will do our best to help you find one that you like. 


Rochelle Prunty       Marah MacRostie
General Manager      Wellness Department Manager