A Closure Update from the Board of Directors President

Update from the River City Co-op Board of Directors (BOD)

Hello to our Co-op friends and community,

At our June 14th Board of Directors meeting, we voted to officially “close” River City Food Co-op. For those of you who are not aware of the history leading to this decision, allow me to explain:

In August of 2014 a new Point of Sales system was purchased for the (then) Co-op grocery store. The new system provided accounting reports previously unavailable to us in terms of report details and sophistication of types of reporting we could track. Over the next several months, as the new POS was tweaked to best suit the RCFC reporting needs, and as a new Treasurer joined the Board, we began to see in new detail, the financial challenges we faced. Natural Food Co-ops and small community stores across the country were also experiencing the effects of big-box chains selling “natural and organic” foods, in terms of fewer sales, and as well, RCFC faced its own unique challenges regarding location and size of our small (but charming) house/store space. We weren’t able to muster up the volume of members and customers that would carry us through. In addition, we experienced a several months-long disruption in the acceptance of SNAP/EBT cards from loyal shoppers, which left us with even fewer shoppers.

By the beginning of 2015, we were diligently attempting a turnaround – reorganizing the layout of the store, varying inventory, offering enticing value-shopping discounts, and engaging in community events which allowed for flurries of increased shopping, but it was not enough to pull us out of the slump we were experiencing. At the same time, we experienced a change in our offering of mid-week lunches, which added to the slower traffic in and out of the Co-op house. To be transparent, there were also difficult interpersonal issues that had arisen, which spread to the staff and some of our most loyal customers. It was a heart wrenching time of facilitation, discussion, soul searching and resolution.

After much discussion, a meeting was held in October of 2015, with our members and Co-op Community, at which the members of RCFC voted that RCFC would close it’s doors as a retail grocery space. The future was undecided, but the BOD had the support of the members in this difficult decision. We had significant debt to address as well as a disarray of inventory and assets.

Our debt to vendors was at $10,000, a tremendously high debt, which was intimidating of course. The work of the BOD was to explore options to pay this down. All of the vendors were contacted, to be brought up to date on our perilous situation. All expressed support of our situation and patience for our determination to pay the debt down. Over the next year and a half, from October 2015 to Now, the BOD has been diligently volunteering time and effort to create cash flow. We have held delicious dinners and bake sales, and fostered an active produce buying club and a wholesale deli from which we sold wraps and soups around the EVV area. Our debt is more than half paid off now, and we have enough reserve funds to pay the remaining debt. We are proud of this accomplishment, and appreciative of the generous and gracious volunteerism of our BOD and several community members who came together for these various successful offerings and happenings.

We were excited about the prospects of upgrading our certified kitchen to a commercial kitchen status, which we would then rent to food producers to not only create cash flow but also to continue to support healthful foods being provided to our community. We were nearly there with the funding required for the installation of a commercial-grade grease interceptor, per the County Health and Water Department code.

Then the coalescence of two situations put a halt on our efforts:

Patchwork Central, who owns our house, has understandably determined that our very low rent was compromising the stewardship of their own resources, leading to the calculation of a fair market value lease agreement. It is imperative at this juncture to state that Patchwork, from whence the Co-op was begun over 10 years ago, has been extremely generous and supportive of RCFC during these difficult times. We completely understand their need to capture fair market value on this property. The new rent increase is not tenable for RCFC, given our meager cash flow.

The other issue is the changing dynamic of our BOD. Because of life events, BOD members’ ability to participate is always an ebb and flow, but more recently for us, we’ve had an ebbing that has rendered us with fewer volunteers for the buying club, deli and dinner events. The collective efforts are always taken on with love and mutual respect, yet there continues to be much to do regarding our moving forward – with fewer people who can contribute to the “to do’s”.

So now, here we are. We’ve given notice to Patchwork Central that we will be out of the Co-op house by the end of July. We are going to sell remaining assets, such as the POS, shelving, old refrigerators, table/chairs, etc. Anyone who is interested, or knows people in the food industry who might be interested in our kitchen equipment and furnishings, please get in touch! We will make the final payments to our vendors. We will file with the State of Indiana so that the business side of RCFC is officially done. We will wrap up the bookkeeping. Our website and FaceBook page will be turned off. We will undertake all of this while our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude, and a sense of bittersweet endings all mixed with pride for what we have managed to accomplish over these past 18 months.

As the BOD President since January of 2015, it has been an honor to work with all of our BOD members, current and past, as well as to have represented River City Food Co-op over these past 3.5 years during which time I have been on the Board.

In gratitude,

 

Robin Mallery

robinmallery@sbcglobal.net

 

2016 Year End Summary

Happy Holidays to our River City Co-op friends and family! May this note find you all well, with your dear hearts overflowing with gratitude and joy for the goodness in our world. I am not naive regarding the challenges we face, but in this time of uncertainty, I choose to focus on that which I can impact with positivity, which includes staying immersed in growing a Co-operative Food Hub and gathering place in our community, with a focus on increasing food access and nutrition education.

2016 has been a bittersweet year for River City Co-op, yet we’ve come out of it with much for which to be thankful and excited! I feel the utmost gratitude for the dynamic Board of Directors who volunteer their time and energy as well as the many community volunteers, all of whom contributed to this year of growth.

  • Community Engagement has been a rich experience for us this year! Thanks to those of you who have  participated in our bake sales, dinners, rummage sale, First Friday events, and the produce buying club.
  • In February, dozens of volunteers gathered over several days to clean the kitchen, top to bottom, followed by painting the walls, cabinets, and ceiling. It’s a happy and functioning Commercial / Incubator Kitchen.
    • We discovered that the County Health Department has had a change in their policy that requires us to install an expensive “grease interceptor”. Fortunately, we were given permission to continue to use the kitchen until we are able to pay for the install.
  • We’ve learned much about our financial situation, thanks to the stellar efforts of Ryan Hayes, our former Treasurer. Ryan went off of the Board in November but during his 2 years of service, he dissected and upgraded the monthly reports regarding our finances, as well as headed up our Finance Committee. We are slowly paying down our debt and have maintained the payments of our rent, utilities and insurance.
    • The Finance Committee has evaluated our ability to pursue the buying club, and to offer food for retail sales.
    • Steve Doyle has graciously agreed to step into the role of Treasurer on the BOD–Steve, as a mentor to us from SCORE, was on the Finance Committee, so he comes to our BOD with insight specific to RCC.
  • The Board of Directors has had members leave and new members join in. Many thanks for those BOD members who have devoted time, energy, and personal resources over the past year(s)
    • As mentioned above, Ryan Hayes has stepped down as Treasurer
    • Brandon Staub has stepped down due to his work schedule and family focus
    • Natalie Klump has stepped down due to her career considerations
    • Suzan Ozel, Missie Carrigan, Theron Spornhauer Colon, Kevin Wohlmut, and Steve Doyle has been appointed to the BOD this year. Their combined talents and experience in management, design, word-smithing, and finances/business are a tremendous asset to your Co-op Board.
    • Michael Below, Nancy Kramer, Jeanne Braun, and I are still chugging along with what feels to us like meaningful leadership!
  • Generating Income & Fundraising — the proceeds of which are going to fund the grease interceptor.
    • The Produce Buying club started early in the year with the order volume growing substantially over the year. Recently, local produce as well as eggs and honey have been added. To learn more and to take advantage of the affordable organic produce offered weekly, please contact Missie at missiecarrigan@gmail.com or at 812-305-1424.
    • The “Deli”: Our organic vegan wraps have been a great success and are being sold at Elbert’s, Honey Moon Cafe, and Flutter Newburgh. Offering healthy and fresh Grab ‘n Go food in EVV has been gratifying as we fill a much needed niche! We have expanded our offerings now to include vegan soups, which will be sold at both Elbert’s and Flutter over the winter. As well, both wraps and soup can be purchased through the buying club, weekly. We will also be making salads as we head towards warmer weather.
    • First Fridays not only connected us to the Haynie’s Corner community but generated revenue as we sold wraps, cookies while sharing our space with the Brew Fairies, who sold their fresh-made sodas and cold-pressed teas.
    • We have our first paying user of the incubator kitchen, who is making cold brew coffee.
    • Two wildly successful Bake Sales were held, in February & October, and our recent Soup & Bread Community Dinner. was delicious fun! We fully intend to have more bake sales and dinners in 2017, and we’ve been asked to offer breakfasts too, which we are exploring as an opportunity!
  • Two Survey Monkey surveys were sent out, one regarding the feasibility of expanding our produce buying club to include bulk items such as grains and lentils, and the other as an assessment of interest in renting our kitchen for use in food production for retail offerings.
  • Four of us have become certified as ServeSafe food handlers to cover the responsibilities of safe use of the commercial kitchen for food prep.

Finally dear reader, please feel free to sit with us at one of our Board meetings — we meet on the second Wednesday of each month from 7 – 8:30 PM at the Co-op house. As always, feel free to to call me or send an email with questions or ideas. Your ongoing support is dearly appreciated.

Warm regards,
Robin Mallery, BOD President
(530) 263-4827, robinmallery@sbcglobal.net

A note from the Board of Directors as an update and a call to action

As time approaches for board elections, it is a good time for members and friends to consider the new beginnings of River City Co-op. We, the board, have overseen the closing of the store and the emergence of our new identity with much patience and optimism; patience with our own nostalgia for the past and instinct to return to that place we loved, and optimism that our new identity would take shape as members and friends contributed ideas, and the energy to manifest those ideas. This is the ultimate expression of Cooperation and pure democracy: Those things we care enough about to step up and do, we will do. Those things we only talk about, we won’t do, yet.

When we closed the store, it was losing money. We were left $15,000 in debt, including $5000 in gift card liability. Currently, we are making enough each week to pay what few bills we have (rent, utilities, insurance), with a little left over. We are paying off debt a bit at a time.

As with many new co-ops, we have begun a buying club. The buying club is focused on organic produce thus far, purchased from Indy Fruit by Sunday evening and delivered and distributed on Tuesday mornings. We have between 8 – 15 families participating each week. Due to our cooperative buying power, this top-quality produce is offered at a great price. We hope to set up a small selection of bulk item staples in the future. Currently, we are determining how many buying club members are needed to justify the compensation of what is the now-volunteer position of managing these services.

We are also rebuilding our commercial kitchen as an incubator kitchen, to be available for rent by small-batch vendors. We also have the lovely front room available for small events…

Our delicious and now-famous vegan wraps are another revenue stream; made by volunteers, they are sold in local stores and through the buying club for Tuesday pickup.

These activities are the foundations of our new identity. How we grow these services, and what other projects we undertake depends on participation by members and friends of the RCCo-op, and on the vision and efforts of the next board of directors. Our path is one of starting a co-op. It is how many co-ops get started, nothing new. But in this new age of commercial organic and healthy food stores, our co-op will chart its own course, in small steps, in directions chosen by active members, with sound economics. If you are interested in helping grow a co-op, it is a good time to start. We are specifically looking for volunteers to fill these opportunities:

  1. Coordinate our upcoming Board of Director Nominations and Elections process
  2. Social Media Enthusiast
  3. Help in the kitchen making wraps and, soon, additional deli items
  4. Coordinate our volunteers!

Thank you for your support and consideration. For more information and to volunteer, please contact the current BOD president, Robin Mallery at robinmallery@sbcglobal.net or 530-263-4827

An Update from the Board President, 6.28.16

RCC banner

Happy Summer to all!

Our Co-op Community continues to stay connected as we savor this time of commitment to the 3 R’s: Renewal, Re-Energize, Restructure.

We’ve been on the receiving end of professional services, generously offered from two of our Co-op family and friends:

Blythe Battram, who has also been helping with the produce buying club, has created our new logos — the banner logo is seen at the top of this newsletter, and the vertical style logo is attached below for your viewing pleasure! Blythe can be contacted at beautisoul@gmail.com for your branding/graphic design needs. Please let her know you appreciate her efforts on our behalf.

The Board agreed to let go of the word “food” from our official name, transitioning to River City Co-op. Although we still gather around food, such as making and selling wraps, our produce buying club, cooking classes (soon!), and the commercial kitchen (really soon!), we wanted to differentiate our current presence from our past grocery store presence. Someday, we hope to have a new sign out front…

Quincy Zickmund of A2Z Computer Services has linked our old website to the new url, and has done the same for our email address, so that typing or searching for either the old or the new will bring you to the right place! Quincy is the master of all things web — building sites, hosting, and figuring out the most detailed situation; he can be reached at quincy@a2zcs.com. Please also show him your appreciation.

We’ll be selling wraps at HCAD’s First Friday this week, July 1st, alongside the Brew Fairies. If you haven’t had the pleasure of sampling their magnificent homemade sodas or cold-press teas, c’mon by this Friday! You’ll be SO pleased!

Our wraps are selling well at Elbert’s Natural Food Market at 5614 E Virginia St on the East Side. We’re thrilled to be stretching our wings a bit, as well as to be part of healthy grab n’ go food in that part of town.

Feel free to get in touch with whatever is on your mind regarding River City Co-op.

Until next time, be well.

Robin Mallery, RC Co-op Board President
robinmallery@sbcglobal.net
530-263-4827

TaDa!

RCC vertical logo copy

Update from the Board President 5.11.16

Hello there!
We had a wonderful foray back into community participation last Friday eve, selling wraps at the Haynie’s Corner Arts District First Friday event. We set up on our front porch to sell vegan wraps, cookies, and banana bread, alongside The Brew Fairies — who make spectacular sodas, lemonades and fermented drinks. For this event, they sold lavender lemonade and root beer–both of which were so fresh and tasty! We featured the colorful and provocative art of Ryan McCain and we were serenaded by Rob Z. and Mychele. It was fun, and it felt like community!

We will participate in upcoming First Friday events, so come on by to grab a delicious wrap and a drink, and to learn more about our vision for the Co-op house.

There are two immediate volunteer needs, for your consideration, please:

** Graphic design talent to update our logo
** Website update

Thank you for your continued support.

Until next time, take good care.

Robin Mallery, RC Co-op Board President
robinmallery@sbcglobal.net
530-263-4827
food sales wall art sellingfood sales  Brew Fairies bannermusic

 

 

An Update from the Board President 4.21.16

Hello there! May this update find you savoring our glorious Midwest spring – it truly feels like a time of renewal, and River City Co-op is manifesting our own continued renewal…

Look for River City Co-op to be an active participant in the Haney’s Corner Art District First Friday events! We will be making delicious vegan wraps!  It was brought to our attention that there just wasn’t enough “grab n’ go” food available at the inaugural event last month, and we were asked to jump in. In addition to the wraps, we will be selling fresh lavender-lemonade. Not only will we be contributing to the nourishment of our community, but as well, we will create a revenue stream to support additional outreach ideas, such as cooking classes and other event participation. We have partnered with local artist Ryan McCain for this May 6 event. Come on by to support his artwork and for a delicious wrap!

The Board continues to explore ideas and opportunities for connection to, and within, our community. The recently adopted Mission and Vision Statements capture our intentions:

Mission: Maintain the identity of River City Co-op and our connection to the community, through the food-buying club, the incubation kitchen, innovative fund-raising, and providing a venue for community gathering.

Vision: In each of the next 12 months the Board will engage owner-members in a collaborative effort to create a vibrant cooperative community.

Both the Mission and the Vision Statements are meant to be “dynamic” so that they reflect our forward motion, and yet, the Board agreed that we could continue to modify them to reflect each step of the way, if that seems appropriate. In fact, just in these moments of writing this update, I see the opportunity to wordsmith in a way that captures our commitment to food justice, and the access to healthy food for all of our community, especially within our own downtown neighborhood, via our buying club and offering low-cost cooking classes in the near future…

Other Happenings:

We are looking into the application to obtain a 501c3 status, or a charitable non-profit status. This would open many doors for us in terms of access to grants; two examples of grants opportunities are to provide resources to improve the physical infrastructure of the house, and another to fund our community outreach for food and nutrition education. As well, PatchWork Central would be able to reduce their current tax liability as owners of the house, which is another motivation.

Speaking of PatchWork Central, we have initiated conversation to develop a liaison relationship between our Boards. Over the past few months it has become apparent that there is an unrealized benefit to be derived, for both the Co-op and PatchWork, from a deeper level of communication and shared insights.

I have had the pleasure of appointing a new member to our Board of Directors, Theron Spornhauer-Colon. Theron moved to EVV from SoCal a couple of months ago with his family and he has jumped right in to our Co-op community. He and his family helped us paint and move furniture around, smiling all the while! Theron has had several successful businesses and has been actively engaged as a food justice advocate—talents that will serve our Co-op Board well. AND, he brews kombucha, mead, root beer and ginger ale.

iPickHere is an innovative online Farmers Market that is about to launch this week. Karen Conaway, of the Franklin Bazaar, is the mastermind of this marvelous idea along with her business partner Erica Kissinger: Local farmers and food producers will list their available food items each week; consumers will go online to order produce, baked goods, jams, soaps, wraps, or any number of other locally produced or grown items; each individual order will be paid for online, and picked up at a designated distribution center. River City Co-op has been invited to be part of the iPickHere shopping opportunity by offering our soon-to-be-famous vegan wraps as a food item, and also as a support to local produce being sold by local farmers, by augmenting with non-locally available produce from our buying club. We will be working with Karen and Erica to develop these ideas more thoroughly in the coming weeks and months.

We are working on our business planning! This action group is comprised of Board members, community and Co-op owner-members, and a SCORE mentor. We’ve committed to short-term business planning which again reflects our dynamic state. Right now we are focusing on the business model for selling wraps, to be parlayed into a viable revenue stream. Two additional business priorities are to rent our commercial kitchen as an incubator kitchen for food producers, and expanding the buying club to include bulk items, which eventually will be offered to local restaurants and also to be used in our commercial kitchen food prep. SO, dear reader, all sorts of exciting opportunities await!

Finally (at least for now!), we are looking to grow our Board of Directors. Slowly and carefully. We meet once a month, on the second Wednesday, from 7 – 8:30 PM, and we have several action groups in which a Board member can engage. This is a rewarding and very, very interesting opportunity, and if you would like to learn more, please let me know. I’ll happily sell you on the idea!
Until next time, take good care.

Robin Mallery, RC Co-op Board President
robinmallery@sbcglobal.net
530-263-4827