A cooperative or in short co-op is an organization or business which is owned and controlled by individuals within a community or collaborative rather than a single person or corporate entity. There are records of numerous cooperatives throughout history where people began organizing together in an attempt to get more affordable prices for basic goods, housing, and/or services. Today, cooperatives can be found all over the world in the establishment of housing, food, energy, daycare, banks, farming and other various industries. There are many stories and case studies of co-ops being extremely successful business entities and solutions to solving problems in various communities.
With Community Grocery being established as a consumer co-op our goal is to open grocery stores owned and operated by resident owner-members who are also consumers. The idea behind a co-op store is that it works for its members, rather than being an engine of profit. Because no profits are expected, the store can keep wages high and costs low, allowing members of the cooperative to benefit. Co-ops can sell things like groceries, books, and a variety of other consumer goods, and the cooperative concept can also be used in housing, banking, and a variety of other industries.
In a cooperative store, the members of the co-op vote on issues of importance to the store as a collective, rather than allowing one person to make decisions. Members might vote for a wage raise, additional benefits to employees, or the use of a new supplier. Some co-ops also use voting to pass resolutions donating funds to local charities. Many also encourage members to volunteer in the store, or in the local community, with the goal of fostering a positive relationship with the surrounding community. Community events, classes, and meetings may be held to bolster community relations.
Common Myths and Misinformation About Coops
You have to be a member to shop at the food co-op.
Anyone is welcome to shop at any coop just like any other big chain grocery store. Just do your shopping like you would anywhere else. The difference about being a member are the benefits and perks you receive versus a person that is not a member.
Only hippies, vegetarians, liberals and rich people shop at the co-ops.
The products sold in a store coop reflect the members that own it. Whether you’re a meat eater or a vegetarian you will find all types of similar produce and products as you will find in any other grocery store. Difference is the choices are usually better quality at a price that’s affordable for all shoppers within the community.
Being a co-op member means I have to join the board (or work part-time at the co-op, or do something else I’m not really sure I want to do).
Although we would love for everyone to participate on the board or in the store it is not mandatory for you to shop at the coop. Sure, you can run for the board or participate in co-op events if you like, but your level of participation is always entirely up to you.
I have to pay an annual fee to be a member of the co-op.
To become a member of most co-ops, you invest a small amount of money in the form of shares. Most co-ops allow you to buy them all at once or over time (but most member benefits start at once). Your shares make you a co-owner of the co-op along with the other members. If for any reason you decide to leave the co-op, there is a process to get your investment refunded.
Why should I become a member? I’m not going to get anything out of it.
There are definite benefits to becoming a member of a coop.
For instance, members can vote in co-op issues, so they get a say in how the co-op works and where it spends its money. And speaking of money, when the co-op turns a profit, members may be eligible for a patronage refund in proportion to their purchases. There’s also a host of other member benefits that are specific to each co-op
So even if you only shop at the co-op once a month, the benefits are likely to exceed your investment, and you’ll get to play a part in a vibrant community resource.