All for Naught


By Joe Romano,
Marketing Manager

New_Year_FireworksThe actions we take and the decisions we make in this decade will have consequences far into this century. If America shows weakness and uncertainty, the world will drift toward tragedy. That will not happen on my watch.

— George W. Bush

It is that time when the New Year marks the end of the first decade of the century. Already, we’re a tenth of the way through the first tenth of this new millennium.

And, as we leave the decade behind, we still haven’t figured out what to call it. Some have called it the “aughts,” but that’s just wrong. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, aught should actually mean “anything,” as in “I never gave you aught” — the way Shakespeare used it in Hamlet and pretty much aught he ever wrote.

So, what’s left? We can still call the first decade the “zips” or “zeroes,” the “ohs” or “double-ohs,” the “nils” the “naughts” or even the “nadas.”

But those names are all ultimately lacking, after all, who wants to be left holding “nothing” after ten hard years of work?
Why do we mark a decade anyway? Why are we so hung up on this decimal system? Sure, ten is a round number, but if we had six fingers, we would probably think that six was a round number. Thanks to the biological happenstance that we have ten digits, we are celebrating the passing of an era, a decade. To hippos, sloths and a certain American woodpecker it’s probably just another year.

As we entered the passing decade, indeed, a new millennium, GreenLeaf ran an article that asked, “What are we planning for here? A breakdown or disruption of services that will last months, weeks, days or hours?” while finally agreeing “that moderation and a sense of cooperation are important elements in seeing us through the Y2K situation.“ Somehow, we made it through.

In January of 2000, Bill Clinton was still president. He began his last State of the Union address by saying, “We are fortunate to be alive at this moment in history. Never before has our nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis or so few external threats. Never before have we had such a blessed opportunity and, therefore, such a profound obligation to build the more perfect union of our founders’ dreams.”

As the decade began, chads hung for thirty six days in Florida, until Dec. 12, 2000, when the Supreme Court selected George W. Bush as our 43rd president. Then came 9/11. Afghanistan. Iraq. Katrina. The Economy.

We Americans entered the decade with a 230 billion dollar US budget surplus. 2010 is projected to end with over 1.5 trillion dollars of US budget deficit, an almost 3 trillion dollar plummet.

In 2000, there was no such thing as a Euro. There was no such thing as an iPod. There was no such thing as Facebook and nary a Tweet.

The GreenStar Deli as we know it today did not exist. Our West-End store was our only store and it was only open from 9 am to 9 pm. There was no such thing as a .coop internet domain name and there was no National Cooperative Grocers Association.
Organic food consumers were faced with proposed government standards that would have allowed for genetic engineering, toxic sludge, food irradiation and inhumane, intensive confinement of farm animals.

It wouldn’t be until 2002 that the current National Organic Program standards would take effect. Due to intense lobbying by food co-ops, organic farmers and consumers, today, food that is labeled USDA Organic must be free of all of those issues.
GreenStar started this same decade with a new General Manager, Patrice Jennings; she resigned in June 2005. In the remaining half decade (or lustrum — yes, there’s a word, after all, there are five fingers on each of our hands) we have seen eight different staff leadership structures including two interim GMs, a two-person and a three-person team, a 15-person collective management team, and two different General Managers who were hired into the position by the board. Today, as a new decade begins, Brandon Kane continues as our third interim GM.

In 2000, GreenStar’s Council provided direction for three store goals: Improving Store Appearance and Image, Improving Customer Service, and Creating a Culture of Respect. These have all been addressed, and in the intervening years we have seen great strides in all these areas and more.

The board also directed that we undertake efforts toward expansion, and in May 2004 we opened our second store at the DeWitt Mall. Every month it continues to post record sales increases.

In February 2006, GreenStar began renting the Watt Building across Buffalo Street for much-needed storage and office space. Our members closed the decade by voting to purchase the building, the first real estate property our co-op has ever owned.
On Dec. 15, 2007, we broke $50,000 in sales in one day, a new record for the Co-op. Now, sales days exceeding $70,000 happen regularly.

In 2000 we had “almost 3,000” members; today we have over 7,400.

That same year our total sales amounted to $5.6 million dollars. In 2010, we expect sales to have been $14.5 million. While businesses stalled, failed and closed around us, we continued not only to show profits, but to show continuous sales growth, a testament to our mission and to our members. In addition, every year we have been able to give back well over a quarter of our profits to the community in the form of donations, sponsorships and grants.

In this decade, we have envisioned and created a non-profit affiliate, GreenStar Community Projects, and we have instituted a low-income membership under our FLOWER program.

Co-ops as a whole have been growing, too. We joined other co-ops across the country to form the National Cooperative Grocers Association, forming a nationwide virtual chain of co-ops that is able to bargain with and buy from our distributors as one of the largest natural food buyers in the nation, second only to Whole Foods.

NCGA has instituted, in turn, the Food Co-op 500, an initiative to form up to 500 food co-ops by the year 2015. The Cooperative Development Fund and other institutions are in place to help people form, grow and expand co-ops across the nation.
Co-ops are already on track to do so many things in the decade to come, and more growth, innovation and cooperation is on the way.
This year our co-op plans to kick off the new decade by celebrating not one, but four decades of cooperation in Ithaca, when GreenStar celebrates our Fortieth Anniversary in July of this year.

So, as we mark the passage of another ten years of food co-op history in Ithaca, let’s give ourselves a hand, or two — all ten fingers’ worth.

To all of our GreenStar members and friends who have joined us in this decade and to those who have watched us grow throughout these many years we wish you a very Happy New Year and a decade that continues to promote our values of healthy food and cooperation.