From Our GM: Cooperation Among Co-ops

TPSS Member-Owners,

Most of you may never set foot in the small Syracuse Cooperative Market in upstate New York.

You might not make it out to the new Lovettsville Co-op in western Virginia. You’re probably not in the produce buying club of the Community Grocery Co-op in DC. You likely missed the grand opening of the Detroit People’s Food Co-op on May 18th.

But if you’ve shopped at TPSS and supported our small community-owned grocery store, you’ve helped to make a difference for these and hundreds of other co-ops across the country. TPSS aggregates buying power to decrease costs, shares knowledge to increase success, and even lends people power to our fellow co-ops. It’s one of the biggest parts of what makes co-ops more impactful than traditional grocery stores.

Co-ops are not perfect, but they’re extremely important. They’re a bulwark against an increasingly consolidated and homogenized grocery industry. Larger grocery chains are removing local decision making in the name of “efficiency” and creating stores that carry the exact same products across the country. That makes it even harder for startups and small businesses to make their way onto the shelves, and creates a self-reinforcing system of our grocery dollars being funneled to an increasingly smaller number of corporations.

In order for the individual stores to compete in this industry, we rely on the principle of cooperation among co-ops. The financial success of any co-op is good for every co-op. We offer our time and knowledge willingly, knowing that helping a store we may never set foot in, is still important.

All of which brings me to TPSS and our big summer remodel project. This summer and early fall, we’ll be the co-op in need of help and support. We helped to stock shelves in Lovettsville before their store opened, and other nearby co-ops have already offered to do the same for us after construction. We’ve leaned on co-ops across the country who have recently remodeled for logistical support throughout the process.

For all of you in our local community, our tremendous member-owners and regular shoppers, we’ll be asking for your support and grace. We’ve spent months planning our tent operation that begins 7/5 in the parking lot, but we’ll need all of you to make it successful. Bring a friend to check it out. Bring 10 friends. Bring someone skeptical. The staff here have thought through thousands of details to make sure the shopping experience is as similar as possible and we have the products you’re looking for. If we don’t, please let us know. We’ll have product feedback forms available in the tent.

The investment we’re making in our store this summer will help TPSS build upon our four decades of success. Our cooperative remains committed to channeling that success into our fellow co-ops across the country to help them do the same. Please help us continue that work by shopping with us during construction and giving us your patience and understanding. I can’t wait to see you all in the tent.

-Mike Houston

TPSS Co-op General Manager