by Rose Paul, Board President
A lot has happened since our annual meeting vote in August to pursue purchase of Plainfield Hardware. Plainfield Co-op made a formal offer to Gaye and Rich Christiansen in late November to purchase Plainfield Hardware and General Store. After much deliberation, Gaye and Rich decided in late December that they would like to sell their store to the Co-op.
In the meantime, the Co-op Board has written grant applications, secured some grant-funded consulting help, spoken with a handful of Co-op volunteers who offered assistance, and met with two lending institutions who (unofficially) seem willing to lend us funding to make the big move. A pre-application for a potentially large grant is due January 19 and we are working to get that submitted.
In December the Co-op’s relocation project made the annual top ten list of regional priority projects for 2024 as determined by the Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation (https://www.centralvermont.org/regional-project-priority-list). The CVEDC describes the top ten projects as “community-driven, transformative projects that could bring great change to our region”.
There is a lot of work ahead of us. The Co-op will fund this project with a mix of bank loans, member loans, and grants. We will launch a fundraising campaign this winter and we hope that Co-op members and interested community members will step up with pledges for loans as well as outright donations. We’ll likely close on the purchase (closing date is under discussion) using a bank loan, and then work to quickly reduce the size of the loan as grant funding and member financing come through. Our target numbers for community fundraising will be refined as we work out the details of project costs, then we’ll share our fundraising goal publicly and widely.
This is my first time serving as Co-op Board president. I recently attended a webinar on rural co-op governance presented by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association. They emphasized the three principles of co-op governance (as compared with standard business models): co-ops are people-centered, jointly owned and controlled by their members, and democratically governed. If we succeed in making the big move to Plainfield Hardware, it will be because our members decided this was for the best, and many people will have generously contributed to make it happen.
The leanest financial months for the Co-op are January, February and March. As Co-Manager Jezebel Crow says in her letter to the editor, if everyone reading this newsletter would purchase just $10 more per week from the Co-op, we could close the gap in our 2023 end-of-year shortfall and get current with our vendors, Then we would head into our big move in a stronger financial position. Please consider making this a New Year’s resolution!
I want to thank our hard-working staff for bringing us through the holidays with thoughtful curating of our product offerings and good cheer to our shoppers. I’m also grateful to the members of our Building, Membership, Marketing and Newsletter committees who take a 360-degree view of our Co-op to help it thrive.
Together we can keep our Co-op strong, so please patronize the store during the slower winter months.
Editor’s note: More next steps in the moving process were outlined in Rose’s report, “So You Wanna Buy a Hardware Store?,” published in the Fall 2023 newsletter.