Community Owned Co-operative in the Hilltowns?
Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington? It’s Up To You!
Photo credit: (ccl) pjmorse.
Everyone is invited to a community-wide meeting at the Cummington Community House on Sunday, January 31, 2010, from 3pm-5:30pm to launch the active exploration of turning the Old Creamery into a community owned co-op. Alice Cozzolino and Amy Pulley, current owners of the Old Creamery, will share their vision for the store and reflect on the connection between the values that they have brought to the business and the principles of co-operative ownership. They will explain why they would like the future of the Old Creamery to be in the hands of the local community.
What is a co-op? What are the principles guiding this concept? What are the structures this might take? Jen Caruso, the Old Creamery’s consultant from the Co-op Development Institute, will present answers to these questions and give examples of successful co-ops in our region. There will be a time for questions and input from out attendees. All are invited to continue the conversation during a soup and salad supper after the meeting, compliments of the Old Creamery. Please bring your own place settings. Child care will be provided during the presentations. – Visit the Old Creamery on-line at www.oldcreamerycoop.org.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Letter to the Editor of the Hampshire Gazette:
Creamery‘s future not in doubt for its supporters
To the editor:
Thanks for the attention given in an article Thursday to the Old Creamery Grocery‘s effort to become a co-op.
As your article noted, this venture has brought about a lot of interest in the community.
Unfortunately, the article carried a headline that betrayed both the gist of the article and the motivation behind converting to a cooperative.
While the headline‘s use of the phrase “help stay open” implies some impending doom of the Creamery closing, that is just not the case.
The ultimate goal of conversion to a co-op is to make the business stable in the long term for the community.
Yes, it would also offer some relief to the current owners who put in endless hours, but the point is that if the community owns the store, it can outlast any one (or two) particular owners. In fact, the first 49 years of the Creamery‘s existence were as a cooperative.
However, in the last 74 years the Creamery has had 10 different owners and has been several different businesses, not always including a grocery.
For anyone who lives or spends time in this edge of the Hilltowns, where there are not many stores, it is readily apparent how important it is to have a store that provides everything from groceries to ready-made foods.
In fact, living far apart from neighbors has encouraged the use of the Creamery as a local gathering place.
And with much time, love and effort from the current owners, it has also become somewhere to visit and explore larger issues in life, such as economic and environmental sustainability, or to learn about growing your own food or building a birdhouse while you drink your coffee.
Becoming a cooperative will allow the community to have a say in what goods and services they want and for that to continue long into the future.
Perhaps it will even allow the owners, Amy Pulley and Alice Cozzolino, more time to focus on the many community-centered projects they love, instead of having to attend to all the details of owning a business.
It is a positive development for the Creamery and the community and it is too bad that your headline did not treat it as such.
Beth Korn is an employee of the Old Creamery Grocery.
Alice & Amy, owners of the Old Creamery, write:
Dearest Friends, Neighbors, and Creamery Supporters,
Last Sunday was an inspiring day for us. We held the Old Creamery Community Co-op Meeting to present to the wide Creamery community our invitation to transition the store from private ownership to a community owned cooperative. For those of you who were not able to attend, feel free to ask Amy or Alice for more details. For those of you who showed up on Sunday, thank you from the bottom of our very full hearts. Several old-time Cummington residents remarked that they had never seen so many cars parked up and down Main Street in all their years here. Over 300 of us filled the Community House with excitement, ideas, concerns, but most of all with support for our precious community resource, the Old Creamery.
We heard your response to our invitation loud and clear. We asked if you were interested in leaving a legacy to future generations by transitioning this vital commercial hub of our community to a democratically owned, locally controlled, community service oriented business. We believe that there is widespread support for this transition. We believe that a Co-op can be created that is viable and representative of the community it serves.
It’s clear that there are people both willing and able to devote considerable time and energy to the Co-op development process. If you are potentially interested in serving on a Committee, and haven’t made contact with us regarding this, please talk to Amy or Alice in person, send an e-mail, or go to the Contact Us section of the website (oldcreamerycoop.org) and fill in the Comments section. Let us know your interests and relevant experience. We would love to discuss it with you. If you’ve already indicated a willingness to help, please know that this list of willing hearts, minds, and bodies will be a very important resource that we will call upon over these next months.
Our next step is to convene a Steering Committee. This small group will first do the work of creating an organization, a structure to hold our course on the journey that we are embarking upon. Then we will roll our sleeves up and begin the very big and involved job of creating a Co-op. Working committees will be formed: finances will be examined, a business plan written, feasibility will be looked at inside and out, legal structure options will be studied, member benefits and obligations will be proposed, a system for community outreach and education will be developed, and many, many more tasks will be tackled in a systematic, careful, and inclusive manner. We will communicate with you by update letters at the Creamery, e-mails, and website updates. (Our apologies to those who received two copies of our last email notice. We are still learning here and will try to not let that happen again) Going forward we will ask for your feedback, your thoughts, feelings, requests, and preferences. Our goal is to make decisions carefully and mindfully, in service of the vision of a viable and vibrant retail store that will serve this community for generations.
Please know that, as we move forward, there will be opportunities for everyone to contribute and become involved in very many ways. Volunteer opportunities will range from several hours a year to several hours per week, with tasks as diverse as sweeping floors, promoting events, outreach, financial consulting and legal assistance. There will be clear ways to contribute with options ranging from purchasing member shares, offering community-based loans, to outright gifts and grants. We have a strong desire for the new owners (you) to carry as little debt as is possible so that there will be less financial pressure on the business, helping to ensure the long-term stability of our new Co-op.
A very special thank you to the couple dozen people who helped plan, set up, and present this meeting to the community. You are treasures.
To all of you, thank you for your interest. Thank you showing up. Thank you for your support. We are truly blessed to be a part of this community. We look forward to seeing you at the Creamery. With gratitude,
Amy & Alice