Dear Co-op Member-Owner,
We entered the start of 2020 in a good place, due in large part to your ongoing support, investment, and ownership in our local Co-op. We started in 1970 as a small scale buying club with eight items and have grown over the years to result in a big community impact. The two full service co-operatively owned grocery stores we have today are a direct result of the dedication of numerous staff and our shoppers. As someone who started as a casual deli visitor in 1996 and grew into an avid Co-op shopper, I am honored to be the General Manager leading our Co-op into the future.
As we start focusing on the work of 2021, I want to take a moment to reflect on 2020. This past year has been a collective experience of unity, division, grief, and tremendous perseverance and adaptation.
As a community-owned store that prides itself on strengthening the food system, being an exemplary workplace, community engagement, advocacy, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion much of what we take for granted as common practice was put to the test. Through this we have had to look at each of these areas and how to improve them for the long term health of our Co-op and to best meet your needs.
I would like to share a few highlights from the past year:
- At the onset of the pandemic, we were faced with the need to close services, while also recognizing that maintaining access to food for our community was crucial. In response, we built an online store with curbside pickup. This Co-op Curbside service has not only opened convenient options for many but has also served as a lifeline for some facing high-risk health concerns.
- The Board of Directors took action to focus our community shopping day awards on projects that address food access, food system development, and equity, diversity, and inclusion. We recognize that members in our community are struggling, and due to restaurant and market closures many local farmers have experienced greatly reduced sale volumes. These funds allow us to remain focused on opening opportunity and partnerships within the community.
- Our employees served an unexpected role as essential workers. We took quick action to implement cleaning and safety protocols and instituted hazard pay for staff serving the public. Our teams have demonstrated a commitment to the community and Co-op that served as a bright spot. We increased our minimum pay to $15 per hour with the goals of retaining our staff and being a competitive employer.
- Deli sales have seen a dramatic decrease due to factors such as the loss of office workers buying lunch and ready-made dinner options. Our deli teams are launching new products and holiday meal offerings with the Co-op’s commitment to seasonal and quality ingredients. If you have not already, I hope you will have an opportunity try some of our new deli and prepared foods selections.
Through all of this, I am happy to report that our Co-op is healthy and strong, and we look forward to the return to gathering as a community. It is through the continued support of our member-owners that we sustain and are confident that we can weather the rebuilding of our local and national economy. We are committed to keeping products on the shelves, maintaining access to healthy food, working with our Food Co-op partners to secure better deals for you, and maintaining the best selection and value of healthy and local food in Bellingham and Whatcom County.
We deeply appreciate and draw inspiration from the resiliency of our community and the support you have offered. We hope each of you remains in good health as we lean into the year ahead! Thank you for your support through this unprecedented time and throughout the years. We will do our best to continue earning it in 2021.
Adrienne Renz, General Manager