Should we move?

Should we move?

BMFC has an opportunity to purchase Hardwick Village Market!

**This decision is contingent on member approval**

We invite your input at two Community Forums!

Join us at ATKINS FIELD PAVILION, Sunday 9/19/21 @4pm & Monday 9/27/21 @6pm

Let your voice be heard!

Voting by Australian ballot on this issue will be open from 10/10/21 to 10/24/21.

Paper ballots will be available at the co-op, or vote online using the link on the Home page of our website.

Click HERE to download our Fall 2021 newsletter for more information.

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Comments (6)

  • Bob Hawk Reply

    I fully support the Coop’s move to Mill St. Market. The economic viability of the Coop will be enhanced by: accessible parking, expanded shelf space for more products, wider aisles, greater space to order and store larger amounts, all of which will draw in more customers/members and, hopefully, lower prices.

    September 17, 2021 at 8:42 am
  • Steve Gorelick Reply

    I realize the Coop’s current building has its shortcomings, especially for staff. But right now we own our building, and have zero debt. At a time of financial and climatic instability, it is very risky to assume that the next 25 years will be predictable enough for us to pay back the $600,000 principal plus $330,000 in interest without a problem.

    Here’s an alternative: in addition to the $600K loan, the Board’s proposal calls for using $100,000 of member equity, and raising $300,000 from community members and grants. Why not use that $400,000 in interest-free money to improve the existing building? When I was still on the Board, I was part of a committee that looked into those kinds of improvements. But whether it was installing a dumb-waiter to move products to and from the third floor, or adding on storage space to the back of the building, we were constrained by cost: anything that involved $100,000 or more was dismissed out of hand. But $400,000 would go a long way to improving our existing building — and we would still it, and still have no debt.

    September 24, 2021 at 4:20 pm
  • Judith Levine Reply

    Steve makes an excellent financial argument. I agree. Here is another argument against expansion.

    Our coop is an attractive store. It looks like food coops all over the world–cozy, woody, and small. It attracts tourists and adds to Hardwick’s human-scale Main Street. To use a word I hate, this is our “brand,” and we will lose it if we move. So the brand is valuable in some ways, but it is also off-putting to many people in the community. Do we want to lose or modify it? That’s an important conversation that should not be had under the pressure of an opportunistic financial move.

    The assumption built into the new plan is that we will attract people who now shop at the Village Market with conventional products and thus increase sales. This is both a financial and a cultural assumption. It’s also a romantic idea—that we will become “diverse” simply by opening in a different place and selling different foods.The coop has a reputation as elitist and exclusionary. In reality, our staff are unfailingly welcoming and courteous. But reputations are never entirely imaginary. We all have unconscious class biases (regardless of how penurious some of our members are) and commit microaggressions. In fact, there’s something elitist about the idea that we will “diversify” by offering what we’ve heretofore considered crappy food. It’s a bit like a longtime white organization “inviting” people of color to join and expecting them to forgive all past offenses–then being surprised when POC don’t come. I’m sure our board is aware of this problem, but the question is: what to do about it? We should stay where we are and work to change our culture.

    Finally, the food. Our food is expensive not just because we buy in smaller quantities but because we are committed to fair working conditions, earth-friendly practices, and local foods, with fair remuneration to our farmers. These are our stated core values. “Conventional” foods are cheap because of worker exploitation, poisonous practices, and downward pricing pressure from giant corporations. Small farms sell small quantities. Should we pressure them for more “competitive” prices? Should we compromise our values for more parking space?

    I am voting against the expansion because of unrealistic financial assumptions and unaddressed cultural ones.

    October 8, 2021 at 12:50 pm
    • Cheryl Michaels Reply

      Judith makes a good point about the coop brand, but that look doesn’t need to be lost in a larger space. There is no reason not to add wood to the walls, use baskets for produce, dress the outside with a great and welcoming sign that is not internally lit and more. The amount of space has nothing to do with commitment to earth-friendly practices and local foods. I don’t see the “mix” of a few non organic grocery staples as being a huge compromise, as long as the offering of coop foods remains the same and hopefully, grows.

      October 12, 2021 at 3:54 pm
  • Jan Bodendorf Reply

    I wholeheartedly agree with the thoughtful points in the preceding two comments, and have more to add after attending the yearly meeting yesterday. The success of a move has too many ‘ifs’. And I get nervous when I hear a board member talking about an ‘if’ as though it were an established fact- i.e. that the customers of the village market will still come because the same staff will still be serving them there- when questioned, it turns out that that staff has made no commitments to stay on. Or when a former financial consultant of the co-op says that the figures in the feasibility study did not match up, and after he pointed it out, the figures magically changed to add more income.
    I have seen more than one co-op, some of long standing, fail and disappear, in more than one state. Every single time it has been because of too ambitious plans to expand.
    One board member said that he felt it was our responsibility to take over the task of seeing that people who walk to the market can still get the products they want there. We would have to change the coop’s purpose and policy statements if we do- remove the word healthy wherever it appears. Recently I asked about the disappearance of an organic product the co-p carried for years, and I was told the co-op wouldn’t carry it any more because the company was bought by Nestle. There’s some kind of disconnect here- what companies does anyone suppose supply all the conventional stock we would have to purchase along with the market- a condition of the sale!? It sounded like the owners are holding out for someone who will continue the store, they are not just abandoning the town. I see no reason why that should be us. Perhaps the co-op management and folks who feel a passion and responsibility for providing conventional groceries in the center of town could get up a Go-Fund-Me page and go for it on their own- I don’t think it fits in with the co-op’s stated purposes, I don’t think it can realistically work, and I don’t want to see this co-op disappear.
    I was a part of the start of the “Food for People, not Profit” movement in the early seventies. Right out of college I ran what was possibly New Hampshire’s first food buying club. With a co-director I took phone orders, called them in to wholesalers, and weekly drove a truck to Boston warehouses, picking up crates of fresh produce and delivering to four towns. When storefront co-ops started, and organic produce became more and more available, I was thrilled. All of these movements happened because of dissatisfaction with conventional grocery stores and practices. I would hope that Buffalo Mt. would continue to be part of the change we wanted to see. There are other and better ways to deal with space issues, and the current location does not seem to be hampering the growth of membership. I see taking on the business of selling conventional groceries as a big step backward, and the buying of the market as the likely start of the end for Buffalo Mountain Co-op.

    October 11, 2021 at 2:57 pm
  • Cheryl Michaels Reply

    I fully support the coop’s values and concept. I am a member but don’t shop there very often. In fact, the last few times I have gone to the coop to purchase something I have been asked to renew my membership, which I happily did. I think that indicates that I shop there about once a year! We seek to eat healthy food that is local but in reality due to availability and cost, we eat a mixture of favorite foods.

    I wonder how many others in this community are like me? So I have asked myself if, after the move, would I be more likely to shop there. My answer is a very likely yes.

    Let’s start with where I do shop: Hanaford, Willeys, Trader Joes, Costco and the Craftsbury Farmers market to start. In the summer we look for farm stands and visit them often. I buy most of my beef and pork locally at the farm. I also shop online for two reasons: I am gluten free and can buy GF products at a much better price. For example, a particular type of pasta that I like is not carried by the BMC but is available at the coop in Montpelier. It costs $9 a box. Online I buy it for $3 a box with free shipping when I order larger quantities. The second reason is that local stores do not carry all of the products that I use, especially some spices and mexican foods.

    I think my list of stores where I shop is pretty typical to many people in the Hardwick area: although their actual store list might include grocery stores in St.J, Barre and Lebanon, and expand to Big Lots and Walmart as well. The point is – most of us don’t do all of our shopping in any one place and the game is to get a larger piece of that pie for the coop.

    I believe that I would shop at the coop significantly more in the new location. Why? Easier parking, I hate to parallel park. The parking lot would make it much simpler for me to just run in for one or two items, something that seems like a big chore now. A more visible, accessible and pleasant cafe – perhaps with a chance to sit outside on nice days would be a definite plus and I would definitely use it. I can’t tell you how many times I have climbed the stairs in the coop to discover the cafe wasn’t open. A mix of regular grocery items and traditional coop items would make it more likely that I could run in for milk, Cherry Garcia, Philadelphia cream cheese, Bayley Hazen Blue, fresh local sourdough bread, local apples and a box of Triskits all in the same trip. That is one of the things I like about Willeys and a major reason to go there – I can buy “regular” groceries along side some local produce, Green Mountain Gringo salsa, Vermont Coffee, Vermont beers, Jasper Hill and Sweet Rowan cheeses. This is not a bad combo and it has proven a winner for Willeys over many years.

    Impulse buys are important and folks like me can be easily tempted to try some local chocolate or pick up a great looking bag of sprouts or try a sheep’s milk yogurt. But first I have to go into the store!

    I would have one concern though, that is the percentage of coop to “regular” food carried in the new location. I think I would like to know that I could get a bottle of regular ketchup at the Village Market price, but would see no need for the coop to carry a huge choice of sizes and brands that are not organic. I would prefer that much of the additional shelf space be dedicated to a wider variety of coop foods. If I lived in Montpelier, I would shop at the coop there all the time.

    So yes, I see the new space as a viable way for the coop to grow and expand its user base. And I don’t think that expansion is going to come mostly from Village Market shoppers, but from a variety of residents who would be coop shoppers, but aren’t. Kinda like me.

    October 12, 2021 at 3:43 pm

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