December 2014 / January 2015 Issue

Annual Membership Meeting
Each year, just as that year is drawing to a close, the Olympia Food Co-op holds its annual membership meeting. Unlike other Co-op events throughout the year, this one, while serving as a time for Co-op members to gather together in friendship, also holds the flavor of a business meeting. It is here that those who have an interest in the inner workings of our Co-op are given the opportunity to talk with Staff, listen to reports from Board members, share with other members, and listen to speeches from candidates for new Board of Director positions. It is a time to get questions answered and to enjoy some good eats with fellow Co-op members.

This year, the Annual Meeting was held on November 2, at the Olympia Women’s Club in downtown Olympia. This sweet homey space offered us a lovely meeting room with large round tables where we could gather to talk, eat delicious food supplied by our own Deli Staff, and hold our business meeting. In a comfortable adjoining parlor space, Peter Ali, an excellent flautist (who not only makes and plays his own flutes, but also teaches others how to make and play them) serenaded us during our meal and after the meeting was over. With music that poured from his heart, Peter treated us all to stories and music with ethnic flavors from both his Native American and Moroccan roots.

The meeting began with a report from the Expansion Committee. This committee has been busy for several years on work to make both Eastside and Westside stores become more efficient, customer-and-staff-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing. Niki Bilodeau and Isabella Rogol, both Board members, brought us up-to-date on all the work that has been done at the Westside store to bring us a new Garden Center (now closed for the season) and to expand shopping space in the store with new shelves and a new floor. Then we were treated to a slide-show-put-to-music that chronicled the activities of the many Staff and working Members who brought us the Garden Center with its new fence and remodeled back building. The show then moved on to highlight the many hours of work in the remodeling of the store itself. This was followed by a report on the next phase of work for the Expansion Committee – the remodeling and expansion of the Eastside store. Based on available finances, plans have been made to build a new warehouse on the empty lot next to the Eastside store, which will allow for the store to move its retail space into what is currently the warehouse, and also to give us more available parking. An architect is being sought, and a feasibility study is being conducted between Staff and the Board to determine what can viably be expected based on current finances. Member feedback is being encouraged with comment cards that will be made available for members at the Customer Service desk at both stores.

The next report came from Staff member Maureen Tobin on changes in the Membership System. Mo pointed out that the Co-op has not done a software update in the past 10 years, and since the introduction recently of the new Point of Sale (POS) system – called Catapult – for the cash registers at both stores, it has become apparent that an update is now necessary. With 75,000 member records in our database, and approximately 24,000 active Co-op members, the Staff Collective and the Board both agree that it is time to work on joining membership information with the new POS system. This will include dues and fee payment history, and will move members away from color-coded membership cards and into new scannable-at-the-register cards. Members will also be able to store personal preferences, such as applying discounts automatically or having receipts emailed instead of printed at the store. Eventually, Mo said, other organizational improvements could be considered once we’ve updated the system. We will have in-store tabling around this change early in 2015 and more opportunities for answering questions.

Lois Maffeo, a working member, reported on the 2013-14 work of the Member Relations Committee, informing us that a Member Handbook is in the process of being created which clarifies all of the member rights and responsibilities. This will be given to all new members, and of course to all current members wishing to be brought up-to-date. A report was given on the most recent meeting of the Co-op Conversation. This was more fully covered in the October/November 2014 issue of the Co-op News. Lois said that revised text has been developed for the new website, which is expected to be up and running by mid-to-end December of this year. She also revealed to the members that a new position is being created for the Co-op, to be called the Communications Coordinator. This position will allow one person to serve as a network communicator between the various departments to facilitate communication between customers, Staff and Working Members. It is expected that this will help to alleviate places where people with questions and needs tend to fall between the cracks.

John Regan and Erin Genia, Olympia Food Co-op Board Members, offered a report from a committee upon which they serve that has changed names recently. Now called the South Sound Development Network, this committee has the mission of helping to develop a network of local cooperatives with the intention of strengthening and offering solidarity for our local economy. Currently involved in this network are: Olympia Food Co-op, The Flaming Eggplant on The Evergreen State College campus, the New Moon Cafe Collective, Olympia Construction Cooperative, and the Northwest Cooperative Development Center. John began his report by reminding us of the important connection made between the Olympia Food Co-op and the Cecosesola Cooperative in Venezuela during 2012, the International Year of Cooperatives. From this collaboration, one that they hope to continue with an exchange in 2015, the members of this committee became even more strongly convinced of the need for the Olympia Food Co-op to work together with other local cooperatives toward the building of a local economy in which cooperative principles can take a strong and sustainably economic foothold in our community.

Michael Snow, a Board Member who also serves on the Finance Committee, gave us the financial report, informing us that overall sales for the Co-op, as of September 30, 2014, stood at about $12.5 million. After the many deductions that come from expenses and discounts, Michael said that the Co-op ended up with a total net income of $76,521. He also pointed out that as a non-profit organization, it has always been the intent of the Co-op to not show large net gains, but to remain economically strong and solvent.

Co-op Staff Collective Member and Representative to the Board, Alejandro Rugarcia reported on activities of the Staff Collective. In addition to the specific tasks-at-hand that each Staff person has on their plate, they also incorporate into their day a myriad of additional Co-op activities. Alejandro proceeded to list for us some of the accomplishments achieved by the Staff Collective in addition to regular operations work. You can see his detailed report on page 6.

And finally, the most recent round of candidates seeking election to the Board of Directors gave us their three-minute campaign speeches (well, most managed to stay within their allotted time). With 5 seats available, and 5 candidates running, all were assured of a seat on the Board this time around.

By Desdra Dawning