Co-op Expands into New Spaces, New Directions

bigstock blueprintBy Joe Romano, 

Marketing Manager

While every New Year brings new ideas and opportunities for change, 2014 at GreenStar promises a bumper crop of great new projects, partnerships, and initiatives. We've all been working hard to improve and grow our co-op to better serve our community in a variety of ways.

The "Co-op Campus"

Perhaps the largest and most visible change for 2014 will be the development of a full "Co-op Campus" along downtown Ithaca's West End. Stretching along Fulton Street from Court Street to Seneca, it will consist of three large buildings, housing a series of different spaces with different purposes.

The Newly Renovated Space @ GreenStar

Anchoring the campus on the North, The Space @ GreenStar, our large community room in the north end of our warehouse building at 700 West Buffalo, has been completely redesigned and renovated. Designed to accommodate up to 228 people for events ranging from the Winter Farmers Market to formal catered wedding receptions, The Space will feature a range of lighting possibilities from intimate and colorful to bright white, and everything in between.

Outfitted with an array of audio-visual equipment, The Space will offer a large projection screen for movies, video, and slide shows, so that movie screenings, PowerPoint, and slide shows can figure in any event. The sound system will accommodate lectures, bands, spoken-word and musical artists, or dramatic presentation. There will even be a lighting grid added for stage lighting for theatrical performances. GreenStar's architect, Pam Wooster, headed up the renovation, which will include dropped ceiling "clouds," accent lighting, display nooks, two new bathrooms, and a kitchen service counter. She used GreenGuard certified insulation in the walls and ceiling, chose low-VOC paint, installed dual-flush toilets, and reused and re-sourced as many materials as possible while using energy-efficient glass in all the windows and doors. All the sheetrock was made locally and installed by local contractors, who were used exclusively throughout the job.

"Professionally, it has been a mind-expanding experience," says Pam, who worked with every team involved in the creation of the new Co-op campus. From the structural design supporting the huge exhaust hoods in the kitchen to the trench that had to be dug for the new water supply to the drainage work and the new concrete slabs, "Let's just say it's been a complex project," says Pam. "For example, the gathering space falls under one occupancy classification, while the kitchen falls under another. I am very happy with the results so far."

The New Central Kitchen

Until now, GreenStar has made do with a small, cramped kitchen in the West-End store and an equally small bakery/sushi production space in our Dewitt Mall store, Oasis. Now, all of that production will move to a large central kitchen adjacent to The Space. Taking up 2,760 square feet, the Kitchens @ GreenStar will feature a large walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer, a bank of ovens and combination ovens, a fryer, a charbroiler, floor mixers and bread proofers, slicers, and shredders — not to mention plentiful storage. There will be areas dedicated for cooking, food prep, baking, and dishwashing, as well as a full-service area that opens onto The Space. All of this increased capacity will translate to new products in the store, a fully realized catering service (and catering hall) and, eventually, wholesale production for sales to other retailers or institutions.

The Classrooms @ GreenStar

The Co-op's administrative offices will remain largely unchanged and will continue to occupy their current space on the south side of the warehouse building, but the smaller building on that lot that had previously been occupied by Enterprise Car Rental, also owned by GreenStar, will now house The Classrooms @ GreenStar. All of the classes that used to take place in the West-End store will now be held in the bright, new, expansive, and fully appointed Classrooms. Featuring a full teaching kitchen and projection system, the Classrooms will host an expanded class schedule put on by GreenStar, but will also include programming developed at the Ithaca Children's Garden and by other community partners. The Classrooms will double as much-needed meeting rooms for our many staff, Council, and committee meetings.

Additional Parking

Parking has been at a premium at our West-End location for some time now, especially at our busiest times. Now shoppers will be able to park outside the Classrooms, in front of the former Enterprise Car Rental space. Shoppers who have had to circle around to get to the West-End lot only to find it full will be happy to have access to a large parking lot, complete with a shopping cart kiosk, on the Northwest corner of Buffalo and Seneca streets.

Store Resets

The Co-op Campus will be completed on the South by our West-End store, which will see some improvements, as will Oasis in the Dewitt Mall. Because of the space made available in both stores by the vacating of kitchen, bakery, and meeting room/classroom space, there will be some reconfiguring in the new year, not only to take advantage of the former kitchen space, but to make room for the increase in product offerings made possible by our new central kitchens. Look for an improved shopping experience and new and more plentiful products from the Kitchens @ GreenStar.

U-Pick 10% Discount and Everyday Case Sales

Starting in 2014, we will be replacing the 10% on the 10th days with U-Pick 10% Off days, allowing you to pick the day and time you want your discount. Need to do a big shop? Maybe pick that day for your discount. The goal is to try to eliminate the crowding and craziness that the busy 10th of every month has had as a byproduct of these 10% on the 10th member-appreciation discount days. Now you can feel appreciated without the crowds because you can pick the day you get your discount.

In the same spirit, we'll be offering everyday case sales, offering on sale every day the most popular items from our monthly case sales. Just choose your item from among those displayed in our bulk aisle and get a case sale price anytime.

GreenStar/ICG Partnership for Healthy Kids

GreenStar has partnered with the Ithaca Children's Garden to help our community's kids adopt healthy eating habits. The program will support ICG's edible Garden Program and will offer programming and classes in their new outdoor kitchen in the summer and in our new classrooms during the colder months. Look for more information in
our stores about this great new partnership.

And There's More...

Members voted to return equity to departing members; that policy will go into effect in the coming year. ... We've already begun to display HowGood information in the stores. Take note of the HowGood kiosk now in the West-End store—it's the first HowGood kiosk in the world! Shoppers can use the shelf-tag ratings or the kiosk to find out how good a product is based on 60 indicators that cover a company's behavior — from ingredient sourcing to how they treat their employees and the environment. ... We will continue our work with the Non-GMO project to inform our members and to eliminate or identify GMOs throughout our co-op. ...

As we enter the new year, our management is committed to Open Book Management, an inclusive style of store management that involves all employees in our finances and decision-making processes. Teams meet weekly in "huddles" to go over key indicators, forecast next week's numbers, and come up with concrete plans to improve all three of our triple bottom lines. OBM empowers employees to apply this information to their own work while offering a stake in the successful implementation of their ideas. ...

Finally, not to be forgotten is the much-needed brand-new GreenStar-sponsored scoreboard in Cass Park! Another first: this is the only co-op scoreboard in the country!

So, basically we have been decking the halls so that we can ring in a very Happy New Year at GreenStar with changes that will make us a better business, improve our contribution to the community, and provide a better experience for our members and shoppers. Best wishes from all of us at GreenStar!

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