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At Weaver Street Market, the social and environmental bottom lines count.
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Cross County Cooperation
by Christy Raulli, WSM Owner Services Coordinator

October is National Co-op month, so I want to chat about one of the seven Cooperative Principles - Number 6: Cooperation among Cooperatives: “Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.” [ICA News, No.5/6, 1995.]

One of the most exciting projects many of us here at Weaver Street Market have helped with lately is the opening of Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro. (If you haven’t been there yet, turn off your computer and go! It’s beautiful.)

Chatham MarketplaceChatham Marketplace was the brainchild of Melissa Frey when she realized she would have some extra time to spare as her children entered school. She believed deeply in the co-op structure, and had been a long-time volunteer here at Weaver Street Market, when she decided it was time to bring a co-op to her growing rural county next door. Melissa took a business class at the community college, and wrote a business plan – thus the idea for Chatham Marketplace was born.
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The mission of Weaver Street Market is to create vibrant, sustainable communities. So we didn’t need much prodding from Cooperative Principle Number 6 to jump on board with Melissa and her Board of Directors to help them realize their dream.

Joining the team, Tami Schwerin used her energy, and sales and marketing experience to head up their Board of Director’s initiatives; jumping right in to design fliers, set up meetings, and sell ownership shares in the co-op. And as other board members came on, they added their experience in sustainable agriculture, business management, public relations, policy development, and local farming.

Folks from Weaver Street Market were happy to assist. Ruffin Slater (general manager) and James Watts (operations manager) “were there every step of the way,” said Tami. “Christy Raulli (WSM’s owner services coordinator) talked to our owners when we decided to change midstream to end of year patronage refund system. We seriously could not have done it without them.”

Most of Weaver Street Market’s administrative staff helped out, too. Then finance manager, Connie Cleary, helped set up reporting systems. Linda Fullwood, our marketing manager, advised on a newsletter. And, Windy Willer from human resources set up a customer service training program. “They were so enthusiastic and fun, they really made me feel welcome,” Windy said about her trip down to Pittsboro.

Chatham Marketplace StaffChatham Marketplace’s general manager, Mary DeMare Stives, came to North Carolina after working in a co-op in Delaware. Mary and her staff have made several visits to Weaver Street Market so we could all discuss systems and methods for specific departments. And a member of our specialty staff spent a few hours in their co-op on opening day, sharing some front-of-house tips in their new deli.

Our stores’ friendship continues. We sell them our bread and pastries at better-than-wholesale rates. And even gave them our signs for the bread when they were in a pinch their first week. We’re part of the same national co-op buying program, so the more they sell, the more we benefit and vice versa. And we buy together locally, too. Our produce managers are in constant communication, and we can deliver to them any day of the week in our truck powered by Piedmont Biofuels’ biodiesel. (Another co-op down the street from Chatham Marketplace!)

And, finally, our greatest sacrifice to our sister co-op down the road, was losing Shiloh Avery. Shiloh is now working miracles as Chatham Marketplace’s produce manager, buying so much local produce it makes your head spin, and turning produce merchandising into an art. The effect is stunning. It is what greets customers as they walk in the door of the next great co-op in North Carolina.

 
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Weaver Street Market pioneers innovative and responsible ideas that improve lives, from living wages for our staff to sustainable agriculture in the Piedmont and Fair Trade around the world.