January 13 Co-op Update: Anniversary Letter from Our General Manager
Dear Co-op Members & Shoppers,
Last week, I wrapped up my first full year as the General Manager of Skagit Valley Food Co-op. It was a year unlike any we have ever seen before, full of challenges that changed the way we conduct our lives, and flipping the calendar to 2021 has not magically returned things to “normal”.
2020 presented so many changes and hardships for us all. As a new GM, I certainly had my fair share of adversities and adjustments related to COVID-19. However, I was also able to lead a team of incredible employees through uncharted territory. I feel extremely privileged to work with a group of people so strongly committed to one of the most basic values of a co-op: serving our members.
Throughout the year, our people embraced this attitude of service in several ways. They fought through multiple supply chain issues on a regular basis, but overall, were still able to secure the products you expect us to have on the shelves. Our team rolled out Co-op Curbside, our online ordering, and pick-up service, early in the year to provide a contactless shopping experience; developing this program took significant time and commitment during a very stressful time, yet they made it happen. We also found ways to minimize risk throughout the store for those still shopping in person. Being a small store, social distancing is difficult, so we worked up a detailed plan to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in other ways. Our plan included routine sanitation of all surfaces, new plexiglass barriers at the registers, informative messaging and signage, (more) regular handwashing, a customer occupancy limit, and, of course, diligent mask-wearing.
Meeting your needs was our goal, but we were also determined to do this in a manner that was respectful, responsive, and rewarding of our staff. I am proud of how our Co-op supported our team as they worked through the added stress and demands of the pandemic. From the very beginning, we recognized our staff with additional pay for their amazing hero-like efforts. The amount of extra pay we provided to our staff was significantly more generous than what most other retailers gave during the year. For the year, we paid out over a half-million dollars in extra COVID pay to our team, and they deserved every penny of it. We also offered numerous options and accommodations for those who needed to take time off or adjust schedules due to COVID-19 related issues. We’ve been flexible and will remain committed to accommodating our staff’s needs.
Despite all the unpredictability, we were still able to implement several much-needed upgrades to the Co-op’s interior and exterior. Outside, we repainted many entryways to our store; added a sheltered area in the garden center for customers waiting in the rain to enter the store; repaired and repaved the parking lot; relocated the dumpsters; and painted a beautiful mural on our neighbor’s building. Inside, we remodeled our Produce Department; revamped our bulk foods; replaced old cases; and installed both a full-service hot food bar and a grab-n-go case in our Deli. I am pleased with the changes; I hope you are as well.
And in a time of great need and food insecurity, many of our members stepped up and generously donated their annual patronage dividends to Skagit County Food Distribution Center. Together, we were able to donate over $10,000 to help feed hungry families.
Wow, what a year it has been! I thank you all for your commitment to our Co-op, and I look forward to meeting you in person. I hope we come out of this pandemic stronger than ever, and I can’t wait to throw a party to celebrate the resilience of our Co-op community.