September 2017 – Submitted by Ori Fifield, on behalf of the Putney Food Co-op Board of Directors

At our Spring retreat, the Board learned more about expansion planning, including the options for project financing and assessing organizational readiness. We came to shared agreements about the scope of Robyn’s decision-making authority for this project and at which points it is essential for the Board to give the “Aye” before the project can move forward. We reaffirmed that we are accountable to the Co-op membership and we plan to proceed in a manner that is both fiscally responsible and forward thinking.

While plans for the Deli Expansion percolate, Robyn and the staff are hard at work streamlining existing store systems so we hit the ground running when the expansion comes to fruition next year.

Some of the changes you might have noticed this summer include:

  • Redesigned deli and hotbar menu
  • Shifting elements in the deli/cafe area to improve flow
  • A new coffee brewer and salad bar
  • Less congestion in the parking lot
  • .. our new head chef, Caelum Massicotte, arrived in July and brings a wealth of culinary experience

Robyn and an Expansion Planning Team are meeting on a weekly basis. They bring a variety of knowledge to the table, including architecture, construction, Act 250 and permitting processes, finances and project planning, and are tasked with supporting Robyn as she needs them during this process.

One of my favorite things about being part of the Co-op Board is the cooperation. To quote Bob Dylan “the times they are a-changin’”. In a world where  I see some people pulling apart and separating from one another, it inspires me to see the bevy of consultants who come together to share their in depth knowledge of co-op operations, to know that if we need to borrow money, it comes from a cooperative bank that uses its’ profits to help other co-ops and to know that increased sales in our Co-op means more local purchasing, more good jobs, more healthy food eaten and a healthier, more vibrant community makes my heart truly happy.

April 2017 – Submitted by Ori Fifield, on behalf of the Putney Food Co-op Board of Directors

For the past 4 years the Co-op Board and our General Manager have been honing our vision for the future of the Putney Food Co-op. We are acutely aware of the need for improvement in the deli and cafe area and for improved flow throughout the store. In 2013, we launched a market study and hired National Co+op Grocer Development Coop to do a pre-expansion feasibility study and plan for us. A $1.5 million dollar expansion and renovation was proposed, but after careful consideration, we realized that the scope of the project was out of balance with Putney’s needs and had been inflated by the increase in sales due to the relocation project at the Brattleboro Co-op and the closing of the General Store.

While it was clear the initial larger, more costly, project wasn’t in our collective best interest, we still had a congestion issue in the store and untapped potential in our Deli; something still needed to happen. We went back to the drawing board with a focus on a streamlined project that would meet all key needs, optimize our potential and be fiscally responsible.

Our General Manager, Robyn O’Brien, and her Department Managers have been working with a Deli/Prepared Food specialist and a store designer who work nationally with CDS Consulting Co-op to look at how we can maximize the space we currently have as well as some additional space to serve our members and shoppers in ways that best meet your needs. They are building on the insights and lessons from the improved productivity allowed by the minor kitchen remodel and refining of systems last year. A conceptual design is underway and will be discussed with the store designer.

A proforma – a detailed financial spreadsheet that models anticipated results based on different scenarios – has been designed for our store.  Robyn is working with the experts we have access to through our co-op associations to ensure that we move forward in a way that is dynamic and responsive to our community.

The Board is building our knowledge of how a major improvement project like this happens and we are planning an all day retreat in the coming weeks to discuss the project. One of the things we will be examining is the various ways to finance a project like ours and what is in the best interest of our cooperative and members.

As we stand on the threshold of the next era of the Putney Food Co-op, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on the project. We plan to have more information to share with you in the near future; space will be dedicated in the store and online to keep members up to date as things progress. One of the essential measures of our success as a co-op is the good we are able to do in and around Putney. We’re excited for this opportunity to grow our Co-op and the ripple effects that growth has into our community through more healthy, local food available to members and shoppers, more quality jobs in the store and increased local purchasing.