Check out the lastest news about the co-op:
We closed on financing and purchased the property at 228 Northampton Street in Easthampton and construction will be underway soon! The new store, which was approved by the Easthampton Planning Board in March of 2019, is projected to open in the spring of 2021.
The Easthampton property includes the former Oldsmobile Pontiac car dealership, adjacent meadow and wetlands, as well as Captain Jack’s Seafood Shack, which recently signed a lease with the co-op. We plan to utilize approximately four acres of the property for the 23,000 square foot store, 200 parking spaces, outdoor seating, and Captain Jack’s Seafood Shack. The adjacent six-acre meadow and wetlands will be preserved as open green space.
We've been working with many local businesses on the site, building and construction plans, including Wright Builders, a local contractor specializing in green buildings, Thomas Douglas Architects, and the Berkshire Design Group.
We are also collaborating with Co-op Power and working with Solar Design Associates on the plans for the extensive solar electricity generation system, which will serve a dual purpose of generating as much electricity as we expect the Easthampton store to use on an annual basis and shading most of the parking lot. The HVAC system for the new store will use an air-based heat pump technology that operates on electricity, resulting in the use of renewable green energy, instead of fracked natural gas to fuel the heating needs for the 23,000 square foot building. The Hilltown Land Trust is donating some of the local sustainably forested trees, which will be milled into timbers by Lashway Lumber to build the front entrance of the new store.
The Center for EcoTechnology is providing recycling support, including the reuse and recycling of the materials from the existing car dealership building, which will be removed before building the new store. There is a relatively minor amount of asbestos abatement required before we can start. We plan to start that work next week and will expect to begin the demolition of the building the last week in February. Once the building has been removed, stay tuned for the announcement of the ground-breaking celebration on the site.
A big thank you to everyone for your support throughout the process! 300 co-op owners stepped up with individual loans, a local bank, bankESB, along with National Community Investment Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution, provided the mortgage loan. Officials from the City of Easthampton, as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts stepped forward to support our project resulting in the City of Easthampton securing a MASSWorks grant. This grant will be used to fund and complete important roadway, intersection, turning lane, crosswalk, and sidewalk improvements related to our new store site. We also had support from Congressman Neal to assemble federal economic development funding through four community development organizations including, Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, National Community Investment Fund, Vermont Rural Ventures, and the Capital One Community Renewal Fund. These funds were all essential for our project to move forward.
With a total project cost of over $18 million, we couldn't have done this on our own. But by working together with our community, we succeeded!
Press Release Below!
February 12, 2020
A Collaboration of Co-op Owners, Community and Government Over Six Years
Over 300 Co-op Owners Individually Invest With $5 Million in Personal Loans
(Easthampton Northampton, MA) River Valley Co-op has announced that they have purchased nearly ten acres of property at 228 Northampton Street in Easthampton and that they will be proceeding with plans to build a cooperatively owned grocery store. The new store, which was approved by the Easthampton Planning Board in March of 2019, is projected to open in the spring of 2021.
The Northampton Street property includes the former Oldsmobile Pontiac car dealership, adjacent meadow and wetlands, as well as Captain Jack’s Seafood Shack, which recently signed a lease with the co-op. River Valley Co-op plans to utilize approximately four acres of the property for their 23,000 square foot store, 200 parking spaces, outdoor seating, and Captain Jack’s Seafood Shack. The adjacent six-acre meadow and wetlands will be preserved as open green space.
River Valley Co-op is a consumer-owned cooperative grocery launched in 2008 at 330 North King Street in Northampton. Over 11,000 community members cooperatively own this highly successful grocery business, which is open to the public daily and specializes in fresh, local and organically grown foods. The co-op already has 1,700 Easthampton area residents as owners and organizers are looking to increase the co-op ownership, employee base, and wholesale purchases from local food producers with this project.
The Easthampton store is planned to be about the same size as the co-op’s Northampton store, but with twice as much parking in a solar panel shaded parking lot. The Easthampton store will feature the same fresh local food selections they are well known for, including fresh local produce, meat and seafood, locally produced bread and cheese, bulk, and an extensive prepared foods department with a larger seating area inside and out.
The co-op is working with many local businesses on the site, building and construction plans, including Wright Builders, a local contractor specializing in green buildings, Thomas Douglas Architects, and the Berkshire Design Group. They are also collaborating with Co-op Power and working with Solar Design Associates on the plans for the extensive solar electricity generation system, which will serve a dual purpose of generating as much electricity as the co-op expects to use on an annual basis and shading most of the parking lot. The HVAC system for the new store will use an air-based heat pump technology that operates on electricity, resulting in the use of renewable green energy, instead of fracked natural gas to fuel the heating needs for the 23,000 square foot building. The Hilltown Land Trust is donating some of the local sustainably forested trees, which will be milled into timbers by Lashway Lumber to build the front entrance of the new store. The Center for EcoTechnology is providing recycling support, including the reuse and recycling of the materials from the existing car dealership building, which will be removed before building the new store.
Wright Builders Operations Manager, Linda Gaudreau said, "It has been a pleasure working with the City departments and people at the DPW on the permits for this project. As I submitted the building permit, I found myself at once proud to be part of bringing the River Valley Co-op project forward, and as an Easthampton resident, I felt pride in my hometown!”
Board President Dorian Gregory said, “The seeds of this project to grow the co-op were sown in 2014 in a retreat on a Saturday, at the Florence Civic Center, with fifty co-op owners, local vendors, employees, and Board members that met to draft a vision for the future. Small groups discussed the current business challenges, beneficial community impacts, and ideas for the future of the cooperative. They reported back to the large group with a unified vision for opening additional locations. Cooperatives exist to serve the vision and needs of their owners. We view a vibrant, locally based food system essential to building sustainable communities. River Valley Co-op has demonstrated how a food business rooted in the community effectively works to fuel a local economic engine that serves that community, instead of exporting profits out of it.”
Gregory described the many steps in the process of making a business decision in a community-owned cooperative:
- The vision was reported to the co-op’s ownership in newsletter articles and in annual meetings.
- Surveys of the co-op’s owners showed a very high level of support for growing the co-op and the good things the co-op brings to the community through its business operations.
- Management prepared and implemented a strategic plan to support the co-op vision including, a two stage remodel (2014-2015) of the current store in Northampton.
- A site search was launched, and multiple sites were reviewed for potential feasibility.
- Market studies were completed, Wright Builders, Berkshire Design, the National Co-op Grocers Development Co-op and others were engaged for technical support throughout feasibility studies to identify the preferred site.
- An option to purchase the Easthampton property was successfully negotiated in January 2018.
- The last two years included an extensive due diligence process, detailed design, budgeting, permitting, fundraising and financing.
Easthampton Mayor Nicolle LaChapelle said, “In a time where community vision best serves its residents, River Valley Co-op brings that vision to life with their closing on the former Oldsmobile Pontiac car dealership property. It also speaks to Easthampton as a city that continues to open its arms to innovative business concepts.”
River Valley Co-op General Manager Rochelle Prunty is enthusiastic about the new store location, “The location is ideally sized for our store operations and customer access. The new store positons the co-op well for taking the next step in better serving our community. Easthampton's River Valley Co-op store will add to the already vibrant locally owned business culture in Easthampton by supporting more local food producers with more wholesale purchases. It will create 100 new jobs within the next five years to support the store’s daily operations. The Easthampton store will provide thousands more community members access to the co-op’s products, services, and cooperative ownership.”
River Valley Co-op’s vision for growing a sustainable local food system and strengthening the locally-based economy inspired community teamwork with hundreds of individuals and organizations that made this project possible. Alex Risley Schroeder, Board Clerk member said, "It was just heartwarming to see so many people working together to help us meet the funding needs for this project! Our Directors got on the phones and more than 300 co-op owners stepped up with individual loans totaling over $5 million. At a total cost of over $18 million, this is not the kind of project we could do on our own, but by working together with our community, we succeeded!”
A local bank, bankESB, along with National Community Investment Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution, provided the mortgage loan. “bankESB is pleased to be the lead lending partner for the planned River Valley Co-op in Easthampton—we are also excited to welcome River Valley and its customers as our neighbors on Northampton Street,” said Dena M. Hall, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at bankESB.
Rochelle Prunty, General Manager said, “Officials from the City of Easthampton as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts stepped forward to support our project resulting in the City of Easthampton securing a MASSWorks grant. This grant will be used to fund and complete important roadway, intersection, turning lane, crosswalk, and sidewalk improvements related to our new store site. We also had support from Congressman Neal to assemble federal economic development funding through four community development organizations including, Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, National Community Investment Fund, Vermont Rural Ventures, and the Capital One Community Renewal Fund. The Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation and the Co-op Fund of New England also participated in the financing for the project. These funds were all essential for our project to move forward.”
Congressman Richard Neal said, “Today’s announcement of the purchase of the property in Easthampton for the new River Valley Co-op is a welcome one and another positive step toward the opening of this local business. The River Valley team was able to take advantage of New Markets Tax Credits to advance this project and I am glad to have been able to assist them in obtaining those funds. Simply put, this project depended on them. I look forward to the cooperative grocery store’s next steps and continue to be a proud supporter of their growth.”
Emily Laine, Board Member and Easthampton resident, “I’m inspired and filled with gratitude for the amazing level of community support for launching the co-op in Easthampton. I am very excited about all the good things that will grow with the co-op: more support for local farmers and food producers, more full-time union jobs, solar energy generated on-site, and more accessible local and organically grown foods. Together we are growing something really good!”
Since opening eleven years ago in Northampton, the co-op has purchased $46 million of products from 400 local farmers and producers, contributed over $1 million to area nonprofit organizations, offered hundreds of free workshops, and provides a minimum starting hourly wage of $15 with 165 employees, 90 percent of them full time. The co-op’s workforce is represented by the UFCW Local 1459.
For more information contact:
To view our Easthampton Expedition Videos which highlights Why Expand, Wright Builders, Board Perspective on Expansion and more please visit: https://vimeo.com/showcase/6218624 and https://vimeo.com/showcase/6680330
River Valley Co-op Announces Easthampton Store Financing Team Assembled
October 3, 2019
(Easthampton Northampton, MA) Today, the co-op is pleased to announce they are working with Easthampton Savings Bank and three community development organizations to secure the funding for the new food cooperative in Easthampton. The community development organizations include the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, Vermont Rural Ventures, and National Community Investment Fund. Over 300 co-op owners from the community have already made individual loans totaling $5,164,000 to support opening the food co-op in Easthampton. The co–op will combine its co-op owner loans with traditional bank financing and economic development funding for a total of $18 million to open the new food co-op. River Valley Co-op Board President Steve Bruner said, “River Valley Co-op’s Easthampton store is being developed by the community, for the community!”
The economic development funding comes through a federal program called New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) to incentivize investment focused on creating jobs as well as providing essential community goods and services in qualifying census tracts. River Valley Co-op launched its Northampton store construction project in 2007 with support from this program in conjunction with a high level of community support. General Manager Rochelle Prunty expressed gratitude for the support of this economic development program (NMTC) for the Easthampton store project as well. “This program makes possible what would otherwise be impossible for a community owned business to accomplish on its own. We would have never been able to open our Northampton store without this funding in 2007, and we wouldn’t be launching the Easthampton store project in 2020 without this support either.”
“I have long been a champion of the New Markets Tax Credit program because I see how they are used to transform communities and the lives of people who live there,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal. “When NMTCs were on the chopping block during the Republican Tax Bill debate, I made sure that they were saved because they support real, positive impact on our communities and their economies. I am confident that the expansion of the River Valley Co-op here in Easthampton will be no different. Congratulations to Mayor LaChapelle and her team, as well as the entire River Valley Co-op delegation who are ensuring that this project will come to fruition with smart reinvestment and revitalization. I am happy to be a partner.”
This economic development financing requires the cooperative to secure the support of multiple mission-driven community development organizations to aggregate enough tax credits to draw an investor to the project at the needed funding level. The funds will supplement bank financing and other significant funding already raised through community organizing to support the community focused local food and triple bottom line mission of River Valley Co-op’s Easthampton store project.
Prunty explained, “Our project was well received by many community development organizations, but the tax credit allocations were more competitive than in past years. In partnership with our consultants, internal team, Congressman Neal and Mayor LaChapelle, we successfully brought together the support to complete the NMTC economic development funding that the project qualifies for this year. We are so grateful for the breadth and depth of the local support, that is what really makes the difference in securing funding our project. We are very appreciative of the teamwork involved on many levels that is bringing this all together in our community.”
Easthampton Mayor LaChapelle said, “This announcement shows the tremendous collective efforts by the River Valley team and Congressman Neal’s leadership on the Ways and Means Committee. It is an honor to work with them in bringing good-paying jobs and new revenue to Easthampton.”
Emily Laine, River Valley Co-op Board Member said “As a resident of Easthampton I’m inspired and filled with gratitude for the amazing level of community support for launching the co-op in Easthampton. I am very excited about all the good things that will grow with the co-op: more support for local farmers and food producers, more full-time union jobs, solar energy generated on-site, and more accessible local and organically grown foods. Together we are growing something really good!”
Since opening eleven years ago in Northampton, the co-op has purchased $46 million of products from 420 local farmers and producers, contributed over $1 million to area nonprofit organizations, offered hundreds of free workshops, and has a minimum starting hourly wage of $15 with 165 employees, 90% of them fulltime. The co-op’s workforce is represented by the UFCW Local 1459. The co-op looks forward to serving the community even better by supporting more local farmers and producers along with adding 100 new jobs within five years of opening the store in Easthampton. For more information see: http://rivervalley.coop
Easthampton approves plan to build River Valley Co-op
EASTHAMPTON — River Valley Co-op expects to open its second store during summer 2020 at the location of the former automobile dealership Fedor Oldsmobile Pontiac on Route 10.
The cooperatively owned market will construct a 22,000-square-foot store, and it will help finance infrastructure improvements to address city officials’ concerns of traffic at the corner of Lyman and Northampton streets.
“We want to take a little pressure off of our Northampton store, and this opening will allow us to add more co-op owners in both locations,” said Rochelle Prunty, general manager of River Valley, on Tuesday. “It will also really help expand the market for all our local farmers and food producers.”
The new co-op will better serve its nearly 1,700 co-op owners in the Easthampton and Southampton area, Prunty said. The co-op in Northampton has a total of 10,500 co-op owners.
Captain Jack’s Roadside Shack, which is on the market’s property, will lease from River Valley and remain open for business.
For full article click here :https://www.gazettenet.com/River-Valley-Co-op-opening-second-location-in-Easthampton-24401536
River Valley Co-op Expansion my Third Outlook Focus
I’ve shared two of the stories I wrote this year for the Springfield Republican’s annual Outlook section on the region’s business and economy. One on Lili Dwight and the fire alarm app she is developing and one on Crooked Stick Pops of Easthampton.
Today’s blog features the third Outlook piece I wrote for editor Cynthia Simison; it’s on River Valley Co-op in Northampton. This market is a hot spot in the Valley, and its growth over the years has been tremendous. My housemate Craig Fear is a steadfast member and shopper, as are many of my friends.
It was a privilege to interview these leaders in the local food industry.
River Valley Co-op
Our Family Farms sold milk at the River Valley Co-op when the store first opened in April 2008, a time when small businesses in the country were struggling as a result of the Great Recession. “One of the owners of the local dairy cooperative came to our 2009 annual meeting,” said Rochelle Prunty, River Valley’s general manager since 2001. “They talked about how the economy hit them so hard.” She teared up with emotion, struggling to add, “But because the co-op opened, that’s what helped them get through it. They were able to keep their farm.”
Prunty is incredibly grateful about this kind of success story and the fact that the natural foods co-op has helped launch—and sustain—many other local farms. The business, which sells local and organic products, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018 with various events, including a birthday party in April 2018 and partial sponsorship of Easthampton’s Millpond.Live music series in the summer.
Since it first incorporated in 1999 and began selling co-op ownership shares at $150 per—the same one-time fee for the privilege today—the co-op has grown to 10,200 owners and 160 employees, over 90 percent of whom are full time. It sees $28 million in annual sales—more than twice what was predicted by its founders. This is no small feat in a competitive market that has suffered from online sales and fierce industry competition.
“In 10 years, we’ve purchased $40 million in local products that have gone into the community,” Prunty said. “We’ve made contributions to local nonprofits every year, totaling over $800,000 in 10 years. It feels like a really symbiotic relationship with the community. Because we’re independent and community owned, we’re able to adapt and evolve as needed with the changing times.”
Prunty, board president Andrea Stanley—also a farmer in Hadley and the owner of Valley Malt—, and Natasha Latour, the co-op’s marketing manager, agree that the co-op’s overwhelming popularity and growth came because it meets the needs of Valley residents. “It’s never about making the sale or making the money,” Prunty said. “The food meets peoples’ needs. Supporting local farmers meets peoples’ values. And in the process, we build community.”
“We’re set up to sell what people want to buy,” she added. “Corporate supermarkets are set up to sell what big manufacturers want people to buy.”
High volume at the co-op means the parking lot and the aisles are over-crowded. This has Prunty and the board looking to expand in Easthampton on property formerly owned by Fedor Pontiac Oldsmobile on Route 10. The co-op already has 1,700 owners in Easthampton, and the dealership property, sitting on over four acres of buildable land, seems ideal.
Prunty said co-op leaders are looking at the feasibility of building a roughly 20,000-square-foot grocery store, considering financing and building costs. “We’re looking to break ground in July 2019 and open in July 2020,” she said, adding, “This is not yet a done deal. We expect to finalize our plans, fundraising, and secure financing for a final decision by June of 2019.”
She said the projection is that the second location could bring in about $14 million in annual sales. “Easthampton is a community that supports local entrepreneurs. It’s incubating lots of different kinds of local businesses,” Prunty said. “That kind of thinking, and that kind of spirit has good synergy with what we do, and it feels like a good match.”
River Valley Co-op Implements $15 Minimum Wage Starting January 7th
Union and Co-op Collaboration Achieves New Minimum Wage Four Years Ahead of State Mandate
(Northampton, MA) Leadership of the UFCW, Local 1459, representing the staff of River Valley Co-op, and the leadership of River Valley Co-op announce today that the co-op launched a $15/hr minimum wage effective immediately, four years ahead of the state mandate. Co-op workers ratified a 3-year contract Friday January 4th marking the successful conclusion of the collective bargaining process on their third successive labor contract since 2011.
Jeff Jones, representing UFCW, Local 1459 said of the new agreement; "This is a big stride forward in strengthening economic well-being and security for the workers. This agreement was ratified with 96% approval by workers as well as enthusiasm from management. Together we’ve developed a 3-year contract to carry us through the potential of the co-op opening a second location and expanding their union workforce in Easthampton. The new contract positions River Valley Co-op for continued growth as a leading union employer in our community. This is good for the workers, the co-op, and the communities the co-op serves. Everyone can feel good about where we are headed!”
Rochelle Prunty, River Valley Co-op’s General Manager concurred with Jones, “This $15 minimum wage is a great thing for our employees! Our goal is to have the best retail jobs in the area and we are very happy about launching the $15 minimum wage now because they really deserve it! Over 90% of our staff are full time with excellent benefits and a voice in their workplace. This keeps our turnover far below the status quo for retail grocery and contributes to our overall success.”
Union Steward Olivia Vicioso described her experience on the collective bargaining team for the new contract as a positive one, “Crafting a new contract was like being part of a think tank. Our only constraints were our imagination and of course feasibility, acceptability, and benefit to the purpose at hand: a safe, functional, and progressive work place that meets both staff and management needs. I’m so proud of our team for approaching this new contract with compassion, empathy, and open-mindedness and for ensuring that each team member had an equal voice at the table.”
Prunty added, “Our approach to collective bargaining is a cooperative approach. We really value the collective aspect of collective bargaining by focusing on shared interests and values for collaborative problem-solving as one team working together to develop solutions. With this approach, naturally we get better solutions and stronger commitment to them. For us, collective bargaining work helps builds a foundation of trust and teamwork. We don’t focus on positions like typical negotiations are done, we focus on developing solutions. It works because we all really do have shared values and interests in the co-op’s success.”
"On behalf of the ownership of the co-op, we are proud to hear that our staff, union, and management came to this agreement together. Our staff are dedicated and passionate about the mission of the co-op and they deserve to make a decent living that reflects the value of the work they perform every day. Grocery is a $650 billion industry and there are about 38,000 grocery stores in America. We all know that grocery stores are more than just a place to buy food. They are a reflection of our culture. They illuminate what we care about. In the face of increasing corporate consolidation and control of the food system, it is more important than ever to support workers’ rights, local businesses, and cooperative and environmentally sustainable businesses of all kinds," said Andrea Stanley, River Valley Co-op Board President.
Over the past 10 years River Valley Co-op:
- Made wholesale purchases of nearly $40 million worth of local foods from the 400 local food producers they partner with.
- Increased its cooperative ownership to over 10,000 area families.
- Supported community non-profits with over $800,000 in donations, sponsorships, and in-kind donations.
- Hosted hundreds of free workshops related to health, sustainability, and more.
River Valley Co-op is in the process of developing plans for opening a second location in Easthampton. No final decisions have been made, however the co-op has a purchase option on property at 228 Northampton Street and is actively exploring feasibility of its plans. The co-op leadership says that a final decision will be contingent on financing and financial feasibility, a decision to purchase and start construction is hoped for by the summer of 2019 with a goal of opening in the summer of 2020.
“We have built something very special in our community by coming together to build a consumer owned cooperative grocery to serve the community. Growing this local cooperative business grows good things in our community,” said Rochelle Prunty, River Valley Co-op General Manager. “I deeply appreciate all the hard work our 150+ employees put into making it happen every day!”
For more information contact:
Rochelle Prunty, General Manager River Valley Co-op: (413) 341-5686, x-106 (office)
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 Everyday.
Jeff Jones, UFCW Local 1459: firstname.lastname@example.org 413 732-9699, x-118
Jeff Jones is a Vice President and Union Staff Representative for UFCW Local 1459 serving approximately 5,000 members in the four western counties of Massachusetts and southern Vermont.
Why is the co-op including pro-nouns on staff nametags?
Pronouns are a way in which people are referred to in place of their name (e.g. "he" or "she" or "they" or "ze" etc.).
You may have noticed pronouns on some of our co-op staff nametags and linen items. Our goal is to make it easier for everyone to use the correct pronouns when addressing someone. Someone's gender is not always a visible thing, and clear markers like pronouns on nametags can help us all to use the right ones when addressing employees.
We came to agreement on pronouns on nametags after several weekly staff meeting conversations, (including those who may be most affected by gendered assumptions).
We determined that displaying pronouns in this way supports making us more inclusive, supportive and welcoming allies. We decided against requiring everyone to include their pronouns. Those who don't select specific pronouns display “everyone is welcome” on their nametags as an alternative way to participate in showing support for the value of inclusivity.
It can be harmful or distressing to be addressed by the wrong pronouns, even accidentally. Adding pronouns to nametags is a way that we can help to avoid incorrect gender assumptions in addressing co-op staff members, and in helping to make everyone feel safe and welcome. We hope that this will add to the inclusiveness and solidarity we enjoy here at the co-op amongst our employees, our customers, and our vendors.
Check your Mailbox!
Vouchers will be mailed in March of 2018 and owners may redeem them as cash, use them to make purchases at the co-op, or donate them to the nonprofit selected by the Board of Directors.`
Corporations distribute their earnings or profits based on how much each shareholder has invested in the business. In a corporation, investors earn profits on other people’s purchases. In a consumer owned cooperative, the structure for the distribution of earnings is radically different. Co-ops distribute the profits made on your own purchases to you. In a co-op the shareholders are also the people making purchases from the co-op business they own, and everyone owns just one equal share of the business.
Your purchases (patronage) are the primary funding for operating the co-op. Earnings on your purchases are called Patronage Dividends. Like any business, a co-op needs earnings for reinvestment in the business to maintain the facility and equipment, etc. Consumer co-ops rely heavily on earnings from purchases to ]capitalize their business. Typically up to 80% of the earnings from your purchases are held in your name as retained patronage dividends by the cooperative to fund its capital needs, and 20% is rebated in cash[ to you. This rebate is called a Patronage Dividend Rebate, or sometimes simply a Patronage Rebate.
This system for reinvesting earnings in the cooperative and rebating a portion to the co-op owners was developed at the start of the cooperative movement that dates back to the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers food co-op in Northern England in 1844. This has been a standard practice for most cooperatives ever since.
For every one dollar spent at the co-op during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, 64.5 cents was paid to our suppliers for the products you purchased, 23.5 cents went to personnel costs, 4.6 cents covered the cost of the facility, 1.6 cents to advertising, and 4.6 cents covered other operating expenses. The remaining 1.2 cents is the net income earned before taxes.
The total patronage dividend for the year was $219,000. To support the financial stability of the co-op, 80% ($175,200) is retained as an allocated patronage dividend, which the co-op holds in your name for reinvestment in the co-op. The intrinsic value of our retained patronage lies in the fact that we are in this together for the long haul, and we will all share in the expected future benefits to be derived from managing our resources responsibly.
What is the deadline for redeeming my voucher?
You must take action to redeem your patronage dividend rebate voucher by June 30, 2018 so that the funds will qualify as allocated patronage dividends. If you take no action on your voucher by then, your rebate will automatically be donated to the Co-op Community Fund and the Food Co-op Initiative.
What is the total amount of the patronage dividend rebate?
River Valley Co-op is sharing $43,800 of its earnings for the year ended June 30, 2017 with its owners. $175,200 in additional patronage dividends will be retained for the capital needs of the cooperative.
*How do I qualify?
You must be an owner of River Valley Co-op who made a minimum of $420 in purchases, excluding beer and wine (MA state law requires beer and wine purchases be excluded) between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
What method for redeeming the voucher is best for the co-op?
All options keep the $43,800 in circulation in our extended cooperative community–all methods are beneficial.
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: email@example.com or call:
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
Why the Co-op Posted Welcome to Immigrants and Black Lives Matter Yard Signs
The display of these yard signs at the co-op, is an expression of support for people of color, immigrants, and refugees who face an increasing barrage of demeaning, hateful, and threatening messages and actions as a result of racism in our society. It is a way of bringing all kinds of people together to reflect on these issues. Both yard signs are initiatives to stimulate dialogue, inspire reflection, raise awareness, and support the development of a community narrative that brings people together to stand against racism, discrimination, and oppression. These yard signs help build community awareness. With over ten thousand weekly co-op shoppers we can help reach a lot of people while also showing as a community owned business, we stand with people of color, immigrants, and refugees against racism. These signs are an expression of our co-op's values and the role we have in community stewardship as a community owned business.
Co-ops have a long history of combining cooperatively owned business operations with social justice values. In the 19th century cooperatives were active in the abolitionist movement, and in the 20th-century co-ops were part of the civil rights and sustainable agriculture movements.
Like co-op communities of the 19th and 20th centuries, we have continuing social justice challenges in the 21st century including racism and a rise in discrimination against immigrants and refugees. These are issues that impact our community. As a community driven business, we care about that. Displaying these yard signs to express our values is one way we are supporting our community in the face of these larger societal issues.
Black Lives Matter started as a Black dignity campaign, and that is a message we believe all can come together to support. It is also a campaign to raise community awareness of how racism and racial bias impacts many aspects of our society and institutions including law enforcement. It is a campaign against race based violence. It is a campaign against institutional racism. It is a campaign for communities to come together to reflect on the impacts of racism on our communities all across the country. It is a campaign to bring us together in understanding so that we can all affirm the message that black lives do matter. And it is a campaign to inspire us all to work to undo racism.
We know not everyone has the same perspective on this just like any number of other things. Some have interpreted Black Lives Matter as excluding other people. It was never intended to mean no one else matters or specify that any particular others don't matter and that is not the message we intend. This campaign has also been misconstrued as an anti- police campaign, we reject that interpretation as well. We consider these interpretations not at all in line with the message of the campaign and not the message the co-op is communicating.
The Black Lives Matter sign is intended to be welcoming, affirmative and supportive as is the sign welcoming immigrants and refugees. It is an expression of the co-op's social justice values. Posting these yard signs at the co-op is just one small step to support a healthy community dialogue on these important issues. We know it takes more than a couple yard signs to address racism. We don't intend to imply we have all the answers but we feel a responsibility to be part of the discussion. Our larger goal is to support a narrative leading to a wider common understanding of how racism impacts all of us which we believe will bring people together to address it on all levels: from personal to community to the institutional and public policy level.
Race and Food Co-ops
River Valley Co-op helped to fund a project with other food co-ops to explore the topic of race in food co-ops. The purpose is to develop greater understanding of this issue within food co-ops and to create some tools for change. Our own Board Member Jade Barker was one of the leaders on this project. We were excited to see the recently completed result of the first phase of this project.
The first part of the project is starting the conversation with a variety of co-op and social justice leaders as a springboard for engaging food co-op leaders and stakeholders in these important discussions.
You can read more about the project addressing the issue of race in food co-ops here: http://library.cdsconsulting.coop/everyone-welcome-personal-narratives/
Thank you for your support.