by Rose Paul, Board Secretary (now President)
Reprinted from Plainfield Co-op Newsletter: Fall 2023
One hundred ninety Co-op members held a decisive vote to pursue, if feasible, acquiring Plainfield Hardware. Eighty-two percent of voters were in favor of acquiring and running the store pretty much the way it has been—hardware, groceries, seasonal greenhouse—with typical Co-op fare as well as clean, conventional food. So what are the next steps?
We’ve hired real estate attorney Keith Roberts of Darby Kolter & Roberts to advise us through the process. It is time to have some in-depth conversations with owners Rich and Gaye Christiansen and then send them a letter of intent spelling out terms that we mutually agree upon.
And we need to get started on fundraising. Our financial model specifies a certain dollar value of bank loans and a certain dollar value of member loans we’ll need to raise. In a few weeks we hope to begin reaching out to a small number of members individually to get a sense for how willing individual members might be to lend the Co-op money with a guaranteed interest rate on their loan.
The financial model did not include any funding from grants, but the Board wants to dig in and try to raise as much grant money as possible. One of the first we’ll apply for is called REDI—the Rural Economic Development Program run by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. REDI provides a small amount of seed money to hire help from a group of private consultants. The Co-op can decide what kind of help we most need, such as writing a business plan and writing grant applications.
The models exist for how to manage this kind of ambitious project. Both Buffalo Mountain Co-op and the East Calais General Store have been very successful in their recent fundraising. The Morrisville Co-op opened six years ago with help from member loans. And in the spirit of co-operatives, they have been willing to share their stories with us.
If you have expertise writing a business plan or writing grant applications, the Board would love to hear from you. Other skills are very welcome—it will take a big team to make this transition happen. Please tell a Board member if you’re interested in helping out! [emails for individual Board members are on p.2.]
Fall 2023 issue of the Newsletter can be found on the Newsletter archives page