What is a cooperative (or co-op)?
A co-op is an association of people who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit.
In plain language, this means that a co-op is a community-owned and community-managed business.
Cooperatives include community organizations and businesses that are owned and managed by the people who use their services (a consumer cooperative) or by the people who work there (a worker cooperative). A food co-op is popular form of cooperative.
All cooperatives worldwide share this same set of principles:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training, and information
- Cooperation among cooperatives
- Concern for community
Why a cooperative food store model?
Big chain grocery stores have failed to come to Lovettsville and surrounding communities. The Lovettsville Co-op knows from our market research that we don’t have the demographics or population density to entice them.
A community-owned grocery store (or a food co-op) is our answer to this problem.
Co-op business models, when well-planned and executed, are more likely to succeed than private businesses are! Community support is built into the cooperative model. Feasibility studies have told us that we have this support in Lovettsville, Brunswick, and surrounding communities.
More than 300 food co-ops around the country serve communities and support local producers where the big chains have failed to do so. The co-op movement, on a national level, can support our local effort by providing information, education, technical assistance, and even financial assistance. The Lovettsville Co-op Market has already benefitted from this type of support when we were awarded a $10,000 matching grant from the Food Co-op Initiative (FCI), a 501(c)3 non-profit, which assists retail grocery co-ops by enabling a faster and more efficient start-up process. Additionally, by structuring the store as a co-op, member-owners control the store’s development, management, finances, and food policies in ways they would not be able to within a conventional grocery store model.
Why locate a grocery store in Lovettsville?
Community surveys conducted by the Co-op indicated that residents want a closer alternative and we have a large and growing membership that agrees! Recent market studies sponsored by the Town of Lovettsville also indicated that a small, independent grocery store could keep millions of dollars in the local economy. Lovettsville does not have the demographics to support a large, national grocery store, so a smaller independent store is our only option.
What is involved in creating a Co-op?
There are roughly three phases required to create a Co-op:
Phase 1: Establishing the organization, building a strong membership and financial base, and creating mutually supportive links to the community. This phase may take several years.
Phase 2: Locating, securing, and planning for an appropriate retail location; while continuing to build and secure the membership base.
Phase 3: Raise capital through member-owners and other financial sources; complete construction, hire General Manager and staff; and, open the store!
What is the role of a Co-op member-owner?
Two roles of a Co-op member are governance and leadership via the ability to elect (and to serve as) Board members and vote on Co-op policies and practices. Member-owners also help capitalize the Co-op through their memberships/equity share and through member loans.
What are the benefits of joining the Co-op?
Membership conveys many benefits! In addition to having a voice in decisions related to the store by selecting Board members, joining the Board or committees, there are both pre-and post-opening benefits. Prior to the store opening, member-owners may participate in educational programs and workshops, receive member discounts or special benefits through local businesses, and attend benefit events either for free or at a reduced member rate. Once the store has opened for business, member-owners may receive annual rebates, based on their purchases, in profitable years. But, most importantly, member-owners make possible a community-owned grocery store that supports our local, rural economy.
Why is it important to build membership before the store opens?
First, it indicates confidence in our future success and a level of community support that is important to our lenders and potential investors. In other words, membership equity is the basic building block of our capital foundation and is the key to bringing other investment resources on board. Second, the larger our Virginia membership, in particular, the greater the base from which we can expect a larger pool of member-owners who will be willing and able to invest in the Co-op through member loans.
Who are the member-owners of the Lovettsville Cooperative Market?
Our member-owners are food consumers (and some local producers) who live in Lovettsville, Brunswick, and surrounding communities, such as Waterford, Hamilton, and Lucketts, Virginia, as well as Knoxville and Jefferson, Maryland, and even nearby parts of West Virginia. Members share a common desire to bring a community-scale, high-quality food store to Lovettsville in order to serve our market area and support our community.
Will only members be allowed to shop at the Lovettsville Co-op?
Anyone, members and non-members alike, will be able to shop at the Lovettsville Cooperative Market; however, only Co-op member-owners will be eligible for end-of-year patronage rebates and participate in Co-op governance.
Has a location for the store been identified?
As of October, 2020, we have a definite new location identified. A formal Letter of Intent has been signed with the Lovettsville Square South LLC which will develop the property in downtown Lovettsville. We will lease a 7,000 facility built to our specs. The developer will be working on their detailed design, enginering, and permitting for the overall site with construction scheduled to begin in the second half of 2021. The goal is to have all construction completed and the store opening in the third quarter of 2022.
Will the Co-op support or compete with local farmers’ markets?
Experience around the country indicates that food Co-ops and farmers’ markets not only co-exist successfully, but also strengthen each other. Both Co-ops and farmers’ markets promote fresh, local products and a healthy food culture. Whereas, farmers’ markets are often seasonal operations (such as the Lovettsville Co-op Seasonal Market that serves our community from June to September), Co-ops provide a consistent outlet for farmers to sell their produce and products year-round.
How do I join the Co-op?
The easiest way to become a member-owner is to click the “Join Us!” link on the homepage of our website. A single membership is a one-time investment of only $200, which may be paid all at once, in four quarterly $50 payments, or in eight bi-monthly $25 payments. If you prefer to pay by check, send your $200 check to LCM at P.O. Box 216, Lovettsville, VA 20180.
That $200 investment makes you a member-owner!
How do I keep up on the latest news from the Co-op?
Updated: July 2019