When a group of Canadians visited Greenstar Coop in Ithaca, New York, they observed how a commitment to selling local food can be lucrative.
GreenStar is a member-owned, community consumer cooperative with over 11,000 members in a city of 30,000. Joe Romano, Director of Marketing, showed the Canadians around and provided background about the organization and its activities.
GreenStar celebrates fresh, whole foods, sustainable living and the transformative power of a strong local economy. Sales in 2015 were approximately $19.5 million.
GreenStar carries more than 4,100 local products (within 100 miles) and 3,300 regional products (within 300 miles), resulting in over $4.9 million reinvested into the local economy, and over $1.7 million reinvested into the regional economy.
The Canadians were touring the Finger Lakes region of New York State, gathering ideas and insights to consider using in their similar region of Southwest Ontario, Norfolk County.
“[It’s] amazing that they can compete with the larger scale grocers and it works! Grassroots and that deep local feel that everyone craves,” said one of the participants.
Supporting local builds strong relationships with vendors and customers. Even stronger bonds are created when member-volunteers earn discounts by working in the store.
In 2015, GreenStar had 81 full-time employees and 53 part-time employees. GreenStar provides opportunities for its members to act as “SuperWorkers” or in-store volunteers. By committing to work 2 hours weekly at designate times for a 4 month minimum, the SuperWorker receives a 15.5% discount in addition to the 2% standard member discount on most purchases.
In 2015, 480 member-owners (and their share partners) saved $187,455 through their participation in the Member Labor Program, an average savings of $391 per member-worker.
“Co-op Markets at their best … saw so many members filling shelves,” said another participant. “Although expensive, found the concept fascinating.”
For the full story on GreenStar, start reading on page 19 of the Finger Lakes 2016 Study Tour Report.