Sunday, 02 November 2014 01:22
By Brandon Kane,
Perseverance and collaboration are the hallmarks of the Collegetown Crossing project that will house GreenStar's third store, now set to open in 2016. The project, years in the planning stages, finally obtained site plan approval from the City of Ithaca in September.
The idea for the combined apartment and retail building to be located at 307 College Avenue germinated four years ago. At that time, the property owner, Josh Lower, approached GreenStar about his desire to build student housing in Collegetown that would improve the quality of life for students and other neighborhood residents alike. This proposal coincided with GreenStar's growth initiative focused on small and efficient co-op storefronts supported by centralized food production and administration.
After talking with Lower, GreenStar staff went to work on market studies of the area, feasibility studies, and all the other background research that needed to be done before presenting a proposal to Council and membership. In the spring of 2011, Council considered the Collegetown business plan and agreed to send the project to membership vote. In the fall of 2012, GreenStar members-owners voted in favor of this location, with 583 voting "Yes" and 237 voting "No."
The vote was specifically for a third co-op store to be established at 307 College Avenue. No specific timeline was cited for completion — and I'm so glad for this, as the project has been in development and revision since that fall 2012 approval, going before the City of Ithaca for review for the first time in March of 2013. At that time, the City's Board of Zoning appeals denied a needed variance related to City parking requirements for new development. This setback did not sway Lower from proceeding, however, and GreenStar enthusiastically kept pace with his desire to see this project come to fruition.
Monday, 01 September 2014 14:42
By Joe Romano,
GreenStar Natural Foods Market and the Agricultural Justice Project are proud to announce that GreenStar is the first supermarket in North America to receive Food Justice Certification! Three of the seven existing certified entities are from Ithaca: GreenStar, The Piggery, and West Haven Farm are all members of this important roster. Leah Cohen, Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) Program Director, confirms that both the stores and the farm meet the rigorous AJP standards for respectful treatment of store employees, living wages, safe working conditions, and commitment to continual improvement, and have earned the right to display the Food Justice Certified label.
A recent AJP press release calls GreenStar "one of NYS's outstanding retail stores" and "a pioneer in food justice, initiating an array of programs to provide access to high quality food for low-income people and to diversify staff." They go on to note that we are "committed to cooperative principles and to open book management by a team that makes decisions by consensus and welcomes the creative contributions of all staff members and owner-volunteers."
The release also quotes the author of this article: "GreenStar is thrilled to partner with the Agricultural Justice Program by receiving their Food Justice Certification. We are pleased not only to receive Food Justice Certification ourselves, but to promote the fair business practices it represents to our members, shoppers, and to our community as a whole. Having a standard that 'measures what matters' ensures that workers and producers are fairly treated. This type of certification is long overdue, and we are happy to be one of the first of what will hopefully be many businesses committed to this kind of objective evaluation, so that 'Food Justice for All' becomes the standard for businesses, communities, and individuals." The author (myself) also notes that "providing fair and supportive treatment of our own employees, and being sensitive to the working and living conditions of those whose labor produces the goods we sell" are top priorities for GreenStar.
Friday, 01 August 2014 16:39
By Brandon Kane, General Manager,
Michael Hoysic, Human Resources Manager, and
Dan Hoffman, Council Member
This year marks GreenStar's tenth anniversary of paying a living wage to our employees. Back in January 2004, a GreenLeaf article reported that "GreenStar has become the first retail business of our size in the Ithaca area, and perhaps in New York State, to commit to paying its employees at least a livable wage. We are pleased to announce that, starting in January, our Level 1 entry wage will be $8.21 per hour. That is a 17 percent increase from our 2003 starting wage of $7.00." The state and federal minimum wage was $5.15 at that time.
During these ten years, GreenStar has increased its base wage to match an updated living wage figure every other year, in even numbered years. In 2014, we implemented our latest wage increase, bringing our entry level wage to $11.80/hour, a 44 percent increase from that first living wage in 2004. The state and federal minimum wage today is $7.25.
GreenStar has always been a local leader in the living wage struggle, but now the Co-op suddenly finds itself involved in a debate over what exactly constitutes a living wage.
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If you can hunker down through the last of winter —gardening season is coming. Look for organic, local seeds and more.
It's a tough month for local produce, folks, I ain't going to tell you no lie. Blue Heron Farm still has parsnips and potatoes. Stick and Stone is not sure how the carrot supply will hold up, but they still have their root medley. But IT is right around the corner...