The opening of a community owned grocery store is a huge endeavor and it takes the community to make it happen. The Kitsap Community Food Co-op is at a crossroads and we need our community to get more involved.
Think about this definition for a moment…
Community: A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common value, interests and goals.
As some of you may know, particularly those that live in the Manette Neighborhood of Bremerton, the former Red Apple grocery store on Perry Ave. has been undergoing change. Living only a few blocks away, The Perry Red Apple was my neighborhood grocery store. For many years it was ran by General Manager Tim Gargule, a member of a historic family of grocers in Bremerton. Last year, Tim left the store and the owner of the property took over operations.
Since Tim’s departure, the store has been struggling as the Perry Market. But a few months ago, a great deal of excitement was generated as Derek Christiansen, former produce manager of the Port Townsend Food Co-op, took on the job as general manager. The Manette Neighborhood Facebook page was all a twitter (yeah… I made a pun). Derek was working hard to promote the store as a source for locally produced food and products. He had negotiated deals with local growers and the produce section looked amazing with a colorful array of fresh and organic food.
Folks in the community were excited. Shoppers were returning to their local store despite a Fred Meyers and a new Haggans located just a few blocks away. The store’s infrastructure needed updating, there was hope for improving the meat department, remodeling the interior and reopening the deli. But the grocery business is a tough one, with tight margins and not enough of the community were shopping there. The investments for those improvements hadn’t materialized and Derek left the store.
I share this story with you to emphasize the need for a community to support its local businesses. I’m not going to suggest that the struggles of the Perry Market are solely based on a lack of community support; however, I believe it is a factor.
The Kitsap Community Food Co-op has the word COMMUNITY in it for a very intentional reason. (Take a moment and scroll to the top of this post and read that definition of “community” again).
WE, the 700+ member owners of the co-op are a community. We share a common VALUE about the importance of a community having access to healthy, locally grown food. We share a common INTEREST in supporting local businesses, keeping our dollars circulating in the community. We share a common GOAL to open a grocery store, owned by the community, that supports our values.
However, like the story of the Perry Market, I fear that we may not have the support of our community. Keep in mind, every member-owner (and potential member-owner) I speak to shares those common values, interests and goals mentioned above. Yet, we are not seeing the commitment of action by our community. Committee membership is sparse. Rarely do member-owners attending board meetings. Events are staffed by the same dedicated but few volunteers.
The members of the board and a small handful of volunteers have been working valiantly to keep this ship afloat. We are now at a stage in our development where the heavy lifting of planning, financing and building a multimillion dollar business is becoming a reality. We are closer than ever to being in a position to negotiate a lease on a property, raise the capital we need, and build a store that we’d all be proud to call “my grocery store”.
Despite the fantastic work of a small and dedicated group of people, we are at a crossroads. The job of opening the Kitsap Community Food Co-op cannot be done by these people alone. We need you to engage in this community. If you truly share those values, interests and goals, then we need you to step up to the plate and get more involved. Attend a board meeting…join a committee… volunteer for an event… join our board. In the coming days you’ll see more information about different ways you can actively contribute. If you’re not sure where you can help, let us know, we’ll help you find a way to use your talents.
As I mentioned, a community is a fellowship of people who share common values, interests and goals. But I ask you… if that doesn’t translate into action for the betterment of the community, is it really a community?
I’d love to hear from you. If this post has generated some thoughts or questions, please feel free to share them here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kitsap Community Food Co-op