Profile Response: Alice Rubin, General Manager, Willimantic Food Coop, Willimantic, CT

HWWLT Logo on yellowNot many businesses would fill in the front parking with native plants and a patio. But the whole point of cooperatives is to do business differently. The green front yard in front of the former A&P turned Willimantic Food Coop is a welcome relief from the adjacent hard surface streets.

 

The Willimantic Food Coop began in 1980 and has been in its current location for ten years. Alice, who joined Connecticut’s largest coop in 1984 and has been here ever since, has witnessed our country’s evolution toward embracing healthier eating and more organic foods. “The Alar scareIMG_6803 in 1987 focused attention on organics. There’s been increasing interest ever since.” However, the organic market represents a small portion of the food sold in this country. “We are lucky here. We don’t have direct competition. The nearest Whole Foods is thirty minutes away in Glastonbury.” Still, Alice is not inclined to rest in that position. “Our objective is to make high quality food affordable to everyone. We really try to keep our prices in line.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 12.51.41 PMAlice explained that a cooperative is a not-for profit, which is not the same as a non-profit. The Coop has a governing board and charges lower prices to members, but it pays taxes like any other business. The challenge is to make some profit, but not too much. “Last year we made $15,000 on $5 million in sales, which is a good target. Profits are not distributed to members; Connecticut’s cooperative law, dating from 1897, forbids that. Instead, profits are distributed as staff bonuses, capital improvements, or charitable donations.

 

 

IMG_6797Willimantic Food Coop is more than a thriving business with 32 employees in an economically challenged region. It is also a catalyst for local and organic farmers. “There is a resurgence in farming. It’s difficult in Connecticut, where plots are small and land prices high. A decade or two ago, older farmers got out of the business and no one wanted to do that work. Now, there are more people interested in farming.”

How will we live tomorrow?

IMG_6801“I’m more of a futures person. I’d like us to scale back and live more simply. I hardly buy anything. I hardly drive. But I don’t see others doing the same.”

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About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, theawkwardpose.com is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog, www.howwillwelivetomorrw.com, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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