Board Corner: July 2024

By Tom Pandaleon, President

seasonal cold beverages

Why do we persist?

Why do we, the members of the East End Food Co-op still own, run, and govern a cooperatively-owned grocery store in 2024? Aren’t we going to get crushed anyway, eventually, by the competition? They sell the same stuff as we do, don’t they? Won’t the national and regional corporate behemoths beat us on price every time? Won’t they always have more square footage, and more items to choose from? What’s the point of a member-owned neighborhood grocery store in a big city doing over $12 million in annual sales?

The point is that it’s ours. It’s our house. We, the members, the workers, and the management built it, over the course of 40+ years. We own it. We direct it. We change it. We deliberate about our shared future in a world that is unpredictable for everyone. We may eventually run our course, it’s true. But right now, right here in Pittsburgh?

It doesn’t look like it to me.

The EEFC has thrived because of the bet placed 40 years ago that there were enough people in Pittsburgh who wanted a significant measure of involvement and control over their consumer food-buying decisions and were willing to give the required time and attention to the undertaking, which was a wise one. As of Summer 2024, it has panned out, to borrow a considerably more mountain-time-zone metaphor. That community of people exists, and as Pogo said in the Post Gazette funnies 54 years ago, “…It is us.”

 

What has our board of directors been up to?

The search for a new location for our main store continues. While that search has not yet resulted in a board decision on the matter, the board will be sharing related news with the membership before summer’s end.

Plans for a re-opened service counter in our café location are moving along briskly, and by the time you’re reading this, you may have a smoothie or a fresh juice in your hand.

The board commissioned a human resources study earlier this year and is currently engaged with our management team in evaluating the results of that study, and in using the information gathered therein to update and enhance the working environment at EEFC.

As most members know by now, EEFC saw the resignation of our General Manager (GM) as of early this year. After a period of management by the Interim Management Team called for in our policies, the board appointed our Operations Manager Tyler Kulp as Interim General Manager. Tyler led our management in negotiations with the elected leaders of UE Local 667, EEFC’s union, successfully renewing our union contract. In addition to his duties as GM of the day-to-day store operations, Tyler has also led the relocation and café efforts described above.

The search for a permanent GM is a little behind schedule, but the board anticipates an appointment before the end of the year.

Board Members Nick Leise and Desmond Zheng have taken over leadership of our Resilience Committee, and are working to rejuvenate that committee. The Resilience Committee concerns itself with aiding the board and our EEFC community in long-range visioning regarding the business and environmental challenges that will confront our co-op in the future. Members welcome!

Our Member-Owner Participation Committee (MOP), has recently been evaluating the results of the Member-Owner Participation Survey. This review has yielded rich veins of information regarding our members’ experiences and expectations. The board is gratified at the number of members who completed the survey (674), and that those who provided frank and candid feedback. Overall satisfaction with the member experience appears to be the majority experience. Still, improvements in more timely information-sharing, and on more opportunities for community-shared experiences were key suggestions shared by many who commented on the survey. The Board will take the committee’s evaluation of the results and will act on those suggestions.

As we head into what looks to be a challenging summer, weatherwise, let’s hold our Co-op close. It’s ours.