by Kay Litten
Seven years ago this month, I joined the Board of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society. Three years ago this month, I became its President. My first four years on the Board gave me so many insights into our co-op, the world of co-ops, the grocery business, emerging practices in sustainability, Board politics, the way we are perceived by our members and customers, and much more. And the most recent three years? What can I say but, “Wow!” I never knew the issues could become so complicated.
I saw the opening of our first store outside of New Hampshire, but still in the Upper Valley— the White River Junction Co-op. The lessons of cooperation are so evident in the experiences of this store’s opening, not only because of our good friends at the Upper Valley Food Co-op, but also because the resources necessary for the opening of this new space meant that all of our other locations had to be on board to support the effort and expense.
We had more communication with members than at any other time in my history on the Board when we decided to close our service/gas station on Park Street in Hanover. Our members came out in force, most of them to protest the decision. The Board and Management listened and decided to continue these operations—under new management and with some restructuring—on a trial basis. The final outcome lies ahead, but we are hopeful that modifications will be successful and that members can count on these services for some time to come.
Crisis and opportunity came hand-in-hand, once again, at the Community Market on Lyme Road. We’ll see changes happening at this location, all designed to make the business serve the local shoppers more effectively and to cut down on expenses connected with its operation.
The Co-op has become a model of efficiency and progress in the area of sustainability, having received a “Commended Business” award from the Town of Hanover’s Sustainability Committee on April 21. We have reduced our waste and increased what we recycle/donate/reuse by 90 percent since we hired a Sustainability Coordinator five years ago.
We continue to support local producers and keep tabs on our suppliers, assuring our members and customers the best products available, with assurances that we are mindful of how and where they are produced or grown. We stay connected with members if there are problems with products; an illustration of this policy is the discontinuation of the soy-based products sold under the “Silk” name, when our staff determined that the labeling of the products did not reflect the change made to the contents.
The Co-op has been changing, and so has the marketplace. We continue to be mindful of the Ends Policies of which we are so proud at the same time that we try to satisfy our members and customers. The most we can ask of you is to let us know how what we do affects you and how you shop. Talk to us directly, even if it is to grouse about products or policies. We shall always respond, and we hope that these responses will help you to understand why we do what we do, or will explain how we plan to change things to please you more. We mean it when we say, “You own it!”
It has been my pleasure to serve as the Co-op’s President for the past three years. I still have two years left on the Board of Directors, so feel free to let me know what is on your mind. And don’t forget to let the new President (to be elected at the May 6th meeting of the Board of Directors) know what you think. Better yet, come to a Board meeting. They’re on the third Wednesday of each month at the Hanover store, upstairs in the Board Room, starting at 5:30 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there.