Staff and Council Look to the Year Ahead

By Brandon Kane, Interim General Manager, and
12th Moon, Council President

2011 promises to be a year of transformations for GreenStar. It is also a year to celebrate our growth and accomplishments 40 years after the 1971 founding of the Ithaca Real Foods Co-op, a group buying co-op. The business eventually became GreenStar Cooperative Market, and was incorporated on Winter Solstice, Dec. 22, 1982. Now, 28 years later, we are a two-store organization, operating a warehouse, with combined sales of $15 million, serving a membership of over 7,500! Happy Birthday, GreenStar, and we look forward to another 28 years of service to our member-owners, our community and as an example of the cooperative, democratic business model.

For Council, the year starts with planning our conversion to a new governance system, Policy Governance. This model of board leadership promises to help us define the relationship between the General Manager (GM) and Council, the lines of authority for both, and to assist Council in focusing on the future direction and long-range goals of our co-op, issues we have been struggling to address. The adoption and implementation of this system will require much of our time during the coming months, writing new policies within a structure that is familiar to most co-ops and their GMs but new to us at GreenStar. To assist Council in this work we have joined the CBLD (Cooperative Board Leadership Development) 2011 Program offered by Cooperative Development Services, which is dedicated to building and strengthening cooperative businesses by providing consulting, training and development services. CBLD (pronounced “C-build”) supports the continual development of boards of directors through focused work with a CBLD consultant, trainings and events for directors and GMs, and ready access to board development and leadership resources. We are indeed gifted to have this access to so many experienced cooperators across the nation working to support the cooperative business model in our local communities.

Another major endeavor of the coming year will be determining the future of our 1.3 acre site across Buffalo Street. Since closing on the property in July, we have been researching and brainstorming as to whether it would be suitable as a possible relocation site. If this property could accommodate a store that fits our multiple needs, we will then determine how we would finance such a project. A consultant from the National Cooperative Grocers Association Development Cooperative (NCGA DC) visited recently to answer our questions as to how they could help with a potential major expansion project like this. The NCGA DC provides business development services for retail food cooperatives, and once again offers us the combined experiences of many co-ops around the country. If an expansion becomes a real prospect, GreenStar member-owners will be invited to give input and feedback on this exciting possibility.
Meanwhile, we are going to offer bulk and case lot sales out of the property’s northern warehouse space. At present, the plan is to generate a weekly list of items and prices, available online and at the store, to be sold out of the warehouse on Saturdays. Expect very low prices on popular bulk, grocery and general merchandise products. Look for this program to begin early in the New Year.

After years of seemingly unending projects related to our facilities we can finally take a bit of rest on that subject and focus more on creating the best possible shopping experience for our customers. As it has become more difficult for businesses everywhere to thrive, we have taken a more vigorous approach to marketing. A GreenStar sales flier now appears in the Ithaca Journal two Saturdays per month, highlighting some of our great sales and periodically offering coupons for further great discounts. The gluten-free diet continues to grow exponentially among our shoppers, and, walking through the aisles, our wealth of gluten-free products in every category may not be so obvious. We are planning on creating a comprehensive list of our gluten-free products in each category to assist our customers in shopping for this diet. The Deli Department has worked diligently to create a daily themed menu for the hot bar. Over the course of the week you may find a comfort food day featuring chicken pot pie, or tacos on Tuesday, or brunch on Sunday. The Deli wants to be your stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner when you don’t have the time to cook at home. The Bulk Department at the West-End store will be creating a specific area on the retail floor that will feature all of our locally-grown and milled grains, legumes and flours. We are amazingly lucky and unique in the fact that we have such a depth and variety of local foods. The West-End store continues to feature the Massage Station for therapeutic massage for our customers. For $1 per minute, customers can receive a chair massage in a relaxing atmosphere from a number of locally licensed therapists.

Other projects continuing into the New Year include reinvigorating the search for our next GM. Council’s commitment to Policy Governance necessitates rewriting the GM job description and more clearly defining the lines of responsibilities of the GM and Council. These changes are expected to attract more candidates with the kind of experience we are looking for. Likewise, our Bylaws Review Committee has reconvened to pick up where it left off in reviewing our bylaws to identify areas that could be updated or changed. Council expects to see the Ombuds Program initiated last year up and running soon, and we are excited to welcome Kirtrina Baxter as new Program Director for GreenStar Community Projects, our non-profit affiliate, and to witness the growth of the continuing good work they are doing in our community.

A huge thank you to the members of Council for all the time and effort given and promised toward the successful future of GreenStar. A huge thank you to all those who run the stores and conduct the daily business necessary to make GreenStar the local resource we love. A huge thank you to our local farmers, producers and suppliers for the abundance of quality goods they provide for our community. And a huge thank you to our member-owners and shoppers for spreading the word about GreenStar and the cooperative difference of local community involvement, and of course for your continuing support and good cheer.