Tuesday, 01 January 2013 22:15
By Brandon Kane, General Manager, and
12th Moon, Council President
2012 is nearly at a close, and it was just a few months ago that the two of us co-authored an article that looked back on 2011 and forward to 2013. Now that we are a tiny bit older and wiser, we're going to update you on both fronts.
Fifty weeks into 2012, our co-op has nearly wrapped up a remarkably productive year. The recent financial report submitted to Council covering the first three-quarters of the year showed that we have excelled on many levels. Oasis and the West-End store have averaged 10.65 percent growth over 2011. We presently have grossed $12.6 million in sales, which is $600,000 over our targeted expectation! Once our expenses and taxes are taken into account, we have achieved approximately $165,000 in net income, or a little over twice our target. It could not have come at a better time, as we plan to invest a significant portion of our capital back into the Co-op's infrastructure to pursue a variety of expansion-related projects designed to ensure the stability of our community cooperative for many more years to come.
And while we diligently pursue the brick-and- mortar expansion projects mentioned later in this article, the Co-op has continued to play a prominent role in support of our greater community through direct involvement and financial contributions. GreenStar's tax-exempt affiliate, GreenStar Community Projects, took on a significant and collaborative role in holding the Second Annual Food Justice Summit, as well as two subsequent Networking Sessions designed to help bring those involved in our local food system together to collaborate under the banner of Food Justice and Sustainability. Our FLOWER (Fresh, Local, Organic Within Everyone's Reach) program, which offers a discount to members in need of support, continues to be a strong component of our Diversity and Inclusion initiative. FLOWER has been in effect for just over two years and now accounts for over 400 members. As of the end of September 2012, our FLOWER members had received $58,766 in discounts at the register! This is a tangible indicator that our efforts to increase the Co-op's accessibility are working. To honor our commitment to strong community involvement, we have contributed over $9,000 to dozens of causes and programs big and small. Recently, we donated $1,550 to Shaleshock to sponsor a bus trip to Albany in support of a ban on hydrofracking. We also held a fundraising drive at our registers (yielding over $1,000) to support relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Sandy through the Red Cross, and also donated $1,000 in wholesale goods that were driven down directly by Co-op members supporting the relief effort. Additionally, we remain committed to serve as a donation space for such commendable initiatives as the Share the Warmth Campaign and our long-standing partners the Friendship Donations Network.
From a governance perspective, Council and staff were very busy and productive in 2012, even as we adjusted our expectations to allow more time to transition to our new Policy Governance structure. Council has been reviewing old policies for incorporation, revision, or repeal and, along with management, has been identifying which information we will monitor via monthly General Manager (GM) reports. In May of 2013, Council will participate in a one-day retreat with our consultant from Cooperative Board Leadership Development to define how we will evaluate the performance of both our GM and the stores through the compilation of data presented in the monthly GM reports. Additionally, we will be looking to write our Ends policies this year, defining the long-term objectives for our co-op.
A West-End store expansion has been a long-time objective of members, management, and Council. In 2012, we investigated three expansion projects: opening a second satellite store in Collegetown, building a centralized bakery and kitchen in our building across Buffalo Street from the West-End store, and finding a relocation site for our main store. As research and negotiations toward these goals continued, we secured additional parking for staff and overflow customer parking across Seneca Street, and we are currently working to install additional refrigerated storage at the West-End store.
Our preliminary time line on expansion initiatives starts with the building of the central kitchen and bakery over the course of 2013. This facility, which will be located on the north side of our 700 W. Buffalo Street building, will serve our stores as they have greater need for production capacity — our kitchen and bakery have simply outgrown their current locations. The change should have little impact on the retail layout of our stores as they are at present but will provide much-needed space for our current level of production; it will also serve us well if GreenStar grows to offer a large-scale catering program, something we have had great initial success with. The need to increase capacity will become even more crucial if GreenStar opens up a third location in Collegetown. Membership approved this concept during the November voting period, and if various contingencies are met to allow the construction of the building to go forward (building permit/occupancy certificate issued), our target opening date will be July 2014. The most far-reaching expansion project on this list is that of a West-End store expansion and relocation. We're only in the preliminary stages of assessing the possibilities, but we hope to move forward with a project in 2015-16. Staff, Council, and membership alike will have their hands full for the years to come. Because the proposed Patronage Dividend system did not pass, GreenStar members will continue to receive a two-percent discount at our registers, and we'll explore financing the above-mentioned expansion projects through a variety of creative means, including a member loan drive most likely to be focused on an expansion of the West-End location.
As a prominent community institution, we cannot and should not undertake this growth alone. It takes a village (or a city) to ensure that GreenStar and other community-based organizations in Ithaca are successful. Our commitment to community collaboration has included past and present partnerships with Local First Ithaca, GIAC, Southside Community Center, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Multicultural Resource Center, student organizations at Ithaca College and Cornell University, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, GreenStar Community Projects, as well as a host of other organizations and community leaders. We all share the goal of improving our community's quality of life.
Looking to the upcoming spring of 2013, we will hold our annual Council elections in April, as well as a member-initiated referendum vote that proposes repealing some restrictions on our current meat policy in an effort to support this growing component of our local production economy. To sum up our plans for 2013, it will be a year of intense focus on expansion and continued support of the multitude of local organizations making efforts toward a more just food system. At the same time, we intend to remain vigilant in our commitment to being a fair, diverse, and democratic workplace and community resource.