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What is Urban Greens Food Co-op?
Urban Greens Food Co-Op is a consumer-owned and governed cooperative working to open a retail grocery store. The Co-op will be open to all and will support the health and well-being of our customers by offering nutritious, affordable food that is sustainably sourced, culturally inclusive, and supportive of local food.
What is a Co-op?
A cooperative is equitably owned and controlled by its members for their common interests, the good of the community and to accomplish a shared goal or purpose. Profit is distributed among members in proportion to their use of the buesiness, or is reinvested in the business. Food Co-ops have significant impact on the local economy, because they circulate money within a community.
When will the store open?
Urban Greens Food Co-op is projected to open in late fall of 2017. We are working hard to get our store built and our staff hired. Because the capital to open a cooperatively-owned grocery comes from individuals across the community instead of a single private investor or corporation, we rely on member investments (YOU!) to provide the necessary funds to open our store--it is our member-owner equity that will leverage further financing to open the doors. We have a current goal of 500 member shares sold, so the best way to accelerate the opening process is to become a founding member!
Where will the store be located?
Urban Greens Food Co-op will be located at 93 Cranston Street, at the nexus of three neighborhoods: the West End, Federal Hill, and South Providence. Centrally located in order to increase access, the Co-op will support a customer base not only from Providence's densely populated urban core, but also from the surrounding western suburbs, with easy access to I-95 and Routes 6 and 10, and with up to 40 parking spots to accommodate customers.
How will the co-op make our community better?
● The co-op will be one of the only places to purchase affordable, healthy, local and organic food year-round on the west side of Providence. The west side is a mixed-income neighborhood and Urban Greens is committed to providing access to its food for all community members!
● The co-op will help create a walkable west side and create a community hub and gathering space.
● The co-op will offer educational workshops to introduce community members to new and healthy foods and how to prepare them.
● The co-op will create new jobs for local residents, and will support local farmers and food producers by selling local products whenever possible.
● The cooperative business model helps keep food dollars within the community, and because the business is community-owned, the shoppers ARE the owners. There is no CEO at the top of the business, pocketing most of the profits. Member-owners will be in a position to put all of the profits back into the store, making it better and more affordable!
Will food at the co-op be affordable?
Yes! Not only, will the co-op emphasize affordable items through access to bulk foods, but member-owners will also have access to member-only sale items and sale days and will have the opportunity to take advantage of volume discounts by pre-ordering food by the case. Where price differences are significant, conventional items will be offered along with natural/organic foods.
The co-op will help to improve the environment for existing local businesses on the west side. It will be also a destination for hundreds of shoppers in the Greater Providence area, as well as bring neighborhood residents onto the commercial streets. These shoppers become potential customers for local restaurants, bakeries, stores, salons, gas stations, and much more.
I thought the store was going to be at 1577 Westminster St--what happened?
We did too! But in reviewing the results of a market study for the 1577 Westminster St space we realized that the space was too small to be a viable full-service grocery store. 93 Cranston Street will provide us with a larger floor plan, allowing us to have less of a markup on individual items, which will make shopping at the co-op more affordable for more people. Additionally, our 8000 square foot store will include space to hold community events.
Will the co-op sell ______?
Yes! Since the co-op is community-based, it will stock what is suggested by our community of members. If you want it and our distributors have it, we will order it for you. The co-op will be smaller than massive chain supermarkets, however, so we will not be able to keep all items in stock at all times. We have developed Buying Practices to guide us in prioritizing which items we will keep in stock.
What are the Urban Greens Buying Practices?
We have adopted these buying practices as an extension of our mission and values, and we take responsibility for explaining and educating ourselves about the products we carry:
● We seek to provide a wide range of groceries and basic household products, with emphases on produce, bulk foods, and other whole or minimally-processed foods.
● We give preference to products whose production, distribution, packaging and use are in accordance with our value of Environmental Stewardship, whether organic or otherwise considered sustainable and responsible.
● We give preference to products that are grown or otherwise produced locally or regionally, giving preference to those items produced closest to our store, all else being equal.
● We give preference to those animal products that are produced humanely and responsibly.
● We attempt to buy products from businesses that support conditions of shared wealth and non-exploitative labor practices.
● We support the sale of products that do not meet the above criteria (either in addition to or instead of a product that would otherwise receive preference) in cases where the price difference, when weighed against the above criteria, may challenge our value of Equal Access or damage our relevance to a large part of the community.
Why Join Now?
Because the sooner you join, the sooner Urban Greens will open: as a cooperatively owned business, we need YOU to be able to open the doors. Become a founding member and when the store opens, you will know that you were truly one of the ones who made it possible. The sale of founding shares in the co-op will help us build the community support and financial backing necessary to open the store. The names of all founding member-owners will also be prominently displayed in the store to remind us that we are, collectively, the owners of our own food source!
How do I join & pay for my membership?
Membership in Urban Greens Co-op is a one time investment, not an annual fee. You can join online through the website, or come to any Urban Greens event or office hour to join in person with an Urban Greens representative.
The full, one-time cost of a share is $160, which can be paid all at once or in installments of at least $40 per year. A low-income share costs to $80, which can be paid all at once, or in installments of at least $10 per year (contact us for eligibility details.)
What are the benefits of membership once the store opens?
● Ownership over your food source. Each member-owner will have a vote on policy initiatives and board elections.
● When the Co-op does well, you do well--profits from the store are returned back to member-owners in the form of dividends!
● Member-only sale days
● Member-only sale items
● Option to pre-order food by the case
● Option to volunteer in the store to get even more discounts
● Supporting local and sustainable food production
Who does my share cover?
Each share purchased will cover one primary adult, one other named adult household member (such as a spouse, partner, or roommate) and any number of dependent children. Up to three additional adult household members can be named to use the account for a fee of $10 each per year.
Can I buy more than one share?
Yes! You’re welcome to further support the co-op by purchasing multiple shares, and it helps the co-op by demonstrating great equity. While purchasing additional shares is a great way to support the co-op, there is no resulting increase in rights and benefits for members with multiple shares.
Will only members be able to shop at the store?
The store will be open to the public and anyone will be able to shop there.
If I become a member, will I be required to volunteer at the store?
No one will be required to volunteer, but only members will have the option to receive discounts through volunteering at the store.
If I move, what happens with my Co-op Membership?
You can keep your membership as a show of co-op support, or you can sell your membership back to the Co-op. The Co-op will purchase the membership from you provided it does not hurt the financial integrity of the Co-op.
What if I buy a membership now and the Co-op doesn’t open?
If the Co-op does not open and the organization is dissolved, member contributions would be returned.
Other than becoming a member-owner, what else can I do to help?
1. Ask Your Friends to Join - Host a House Party: Many existing Urban Greens members first heard about Urban Greens through word of mouth or at a house party. A house party is a great opportunity for you to invite some friends to your place for a casual, informative discussion about Urban Greens, with opportunities to join right then and there. You provide the space, snacks, and some interested friends, and Urban Greens will arrange for a neighborhood co-op member to give a short presentation and answer questions. If hosting a party is not something of interest, you can always point friends to UrbanGreens.com to join online.
2. Host a Short Presentation: You can facilitate a meeting for a group of interested folks through your workplace or community group. Like a house party, but without your house. Instead, arrange for an Urban Greens member to make a short presentation to a group of people at your work or other group. Maybe you work at a hospital or are a member of a book club. Think about your kickball team, the ad agency where you work or your new moms' play group...
3. Join our crew of willing volunteers! Volunteering is great for your resume. Opportunities include “tabling” at events including farmers markets; speaking and answering questions at house parties and presentations as an Urban Greens Ambassador; planning events; working with supportive local businesses; coordinating with event hosts; writing press releases; networking on behalf of Urban Greens; even joining the Cooperative Council!
4. Join a UG taskforce! We are in need of members with skills in the areas of financial forecasting, retail business management, and communications. If you can help, let us know!
Where will the financing for the store come from?
Just like any business, we will need to get business loans in order to open. By selling shares, we are gathering the collateral we will need to seek financing from lenders. Once we have sold enough shares, we will begin a member-loan campaign to receive interest-bearing loan investments from UG Co-op Member-owners. Outside of co-op members, potential lenders will include traditional banks as well as non-traditional lenders that exist specifically to help start-up co-op businesses, such as the Cooperative Fund of New England.
What are the Seven Cooperative Principles?
The co-operative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice:
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
2. Democratic Member Control
3. Member Economic Participation
4. Autonomy and Independence
5. Education, Training, and Information
6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
7. Concern for Community