—by Melissa Williams
The Hampden Park Co-op annual meeting occurred on Sunday, October 27, in the Church of St. Cecilia, across the park from the co-op. We began our meeting with excellent music from Nick Jordan and Michael Keyes, along with yummy samples from local suppliers: Ferndale, Thuro Bread, Wisconsin Growers, and Cow Caviar. The co-op provided some of its famous soups and an array of locally baked bread; and many co-op members brought dishes to share.
Jesse Winsell, chair of the board of directors, brought the meeting to order, thanking everyone for making the past year a great experience for him as the chair and fostering a warm co-op experience for all of us in the past year. He thanked the staff and volunteers who put together our meal, then introduced the board: Brian Corner (secretary), Marcia Hanson (staff rep.), Matt Hass, Melvyn Jones, Nick McNeely (vice chair), Hannah Miller, and Huong Nguyen (treasurer). Chris Dart was absent due to illness.
Melissa Williams was appointed to take notes, and Brian Corner detailed how the co-op publicized the member meeting. Then we received the wonderful news that we had achieved quorum, which has been a concern at past meetings. With quorum, we were able to conduct all of the business at hand. We approved last year’s minutes and moved on to updates.
Search for new general manager
We will be conducting a search for a new general manager. The board is doing a general survey of the co-op hiring that’s happening in the Twin Cities right now, then will begin the more formal search. The board is attempting to pin down the characteristics that we want in the role, and will then formalize the job description. A search committee will then recruit and screen candidates. They invite input at email@example.com. Members can also touch base with board members at the store. For now, our assistant general managers, Kathy Vaughan and Marcia Hanson, have the reins and are ready to help the co-op grow during this time. There will be a 3 to 6 month period for the general manager search.
Finances and renovation
Our next topics were renovation plans, the financial health of the co-op, and questions that have been received from members via the surveys the board conducted in the co-op lobby.
Per last year’s renovation discussion, a “reset” of the co-op is still on the table, but there are additional decisions to be made before moving forward. Priorities include 1) accessibility; 2) building efficiency; and 3) improving the aesthetic of the co-op, thus creating a more welcoming atmosphere.
Huong Nguyen summarized the financial status of the co-op, noting that road construction will continue to be an issue, as it’s slated to continue into 2015. There will be no dividend this year, as we anticipate challenges related to construction and to the “balloon payment” that will be coming up on the mortgage in 2015.
The co-op is looking at the possibility of increasing share prices (at $30/share, we’re well below most co-op share prices); adding to the Class C stock; and refinancing the building loan, which is required as part of our original loan agreement with the Minnesota Midwest Community Development Corporation, or MMCDC, in 2009. The total to be refinanced would be $523,000.
Many of the questions that members submitted via the survey were related to how the co-op supports its employees. Huong noted that a living wage in the Twin Cities is $9.69/hour. The salaries at the co-op are roughly that or better. As for benefits, the co-op does well in some areas. Would we like to do more? Yes. But in the meantime, we’re doing the best we can. Health care is the main
concern, and it is not offered. There is an allowance every quarter to supplement individual health care that a staff person may obtain from elsewhere.
Another question was about staff members getting discounts beyond employee discounts; Huong explained that employees who have extra discounts have them because they volunteer.
Amy Sparks, Executive Director of the Saint Anthony Park Community Council, described some of the council's work. She invited members to weigh in on the late phases of planning for Raymond Avenue development and construction, which can be done at http://www.sapcc.org. She then discussed the Creative Enterprise Zone, an initiative to foster creative arts and business in the neighborhood. She invited people to attend the Give and Take events held by the Creative Enterprise Zone, listed on the SAPCC website. We discussed details on the road construction and buses.
Report from HPC building manager
Kari Simonson, our building manager, represented the LLC in her report on the state of the building. We were fully leased last year, but now we’re losing our dance tenant. Upstairs looks much better now, so we’re hoping it will be easier to lease. Many people want to rent on an hourly basis, but because there are other tenants up there, we have to be extremely careful to protect the privacy of those tenants. Kari indicated that someone could rent the dance space as an events center, but that would come with the staffing, legal, and other issues necessary to run as an events center business.
Naomi Jackson, our membership coordinator, noted that our membership numbers held roughly steady this year. She figured out that the percentage of members at 12% dropped, 17% stayed stable, and 23% has risen steadily. The biggest concern is that, in spite of increasing membership (YAY for our summer interns!), we’re having trouble getting enough volunteers to keep the shelves stocked. We’re not sure why we are short on volunteers but we DO need more volunteers right now.
Elections and survey drawing
Paul Moore, Paul Hannemann, and Mark Chapin were elected to serve three-year terms on our board of directors. They will be replacing Huong Nguyen, Melvyn Jones, and Matt Hass.
Gift certificates were won by survey participants Bonita Steppa and Nancy Englemeyer in a drawing during the break.
Paula Gilbertson from the NCGA
Our co-op is an associate member of the National Cooperative Grocers’ Association (NCGA), which is basically a co-op of co-ops. Our guest speaker, Paula Gilbertson, provided an excellent summary of what the NCGA is, how it came to be, and what role it has in supporting the co-op.
NCGA co-ops are a tiny part of the natural and organic food industry in the United States, but a significant portion of the food cooperatives in the country. The organization is comprised of 136 co-ops with 179 stores in 37 states. NCGA has 56 staff members nationwide. There are about 1.3 million co-op owners involved in that group and about $1.5 billion in annual sales.
The precursor to NCGA was the Consumer Cooperatives Managers Alliance. In 1992, their keynote speaker was John Mackey, now CEO of Whole Foods. His speech about beating co-ops at their own game was so unsettling that attendees started forming cooperative organizations to help each other with training, collective purchasing, and more. The NCGA started in 2002 as one of these initiatives. They are technically a Minnesota co-op.
Every co-op that joins NCGA has a Designated Representative, or DR, to represent the co-op and vote on the co-op’s behalf. NCGA has a board of directors, elected by DRs, as well as regional and national advisory committees. The NCGA’s income comes from supplier funds, program fees, and dues.
Other services provided to NCGA members and associates include:
- Merchandizing and category management
- Purchasing contracts
- Co+op Deals
- New items program
- “Stronger Together” website
- Training and professional development
For more information on the NCGA, go to their website: https://www.ncga.coop.
Our final activity was voting on a change to the co-op’s bylaws to make them consistent with the Minnesota state statute on cooperative structure. The motion passed unanimously.