May 24, 2017 General Meeting

May 24, 2017 General MeetingGreene Hill Food Co-op


  • Update member-owners with the current status of lease negotiations and relocation effort.
  • Present member-owners with a transparent summary of our options: relocation or closure.
  • Support member-owner agency and authority in shaping our immediate future.
  • Increase member-owner engagement and conversation about the big picture of our store.
  • Build member-owner leadership.

Meeting Overview

Facilitator: Sarah Chinn Notetaker: Chris Gollmar Timekeeper: Steve Russo


Introduction (5 min.)

Meeting Norms

  • 1 Diva, 1 Mic (1 person speaks at a time)
  • No one knows everything, together we know a lot
  • Be aware of time - Everyone gets two minutes to speak
  • Recognize/respect the role of facilitator
  • Step up, step back

Who’s Who

  • Introduce primary presenters at this meeting.
  • All members introduce themselves (name, co-op position, pronouns) to people sitting near them. (Or to the whole group, if we have low attendance.)
  • Acknowledge who is not present (e.g., committee members that have been involved but can’t make this meeting).

Meeting Goals and Agenda

  • Present goals
  • Distribute agenda

Board Election (5 min.)

  • Christina, Cecile, and Chris member presented a description of the position
  • Interim position; elected by Board until member-owner annual meeting
  • Takes leadership, communication skills
  • The Board took nominees from the floor; their names will be submitted to the Governance committee for next steps.

Committee Lightning Updates (10 min.)

  • Committees not presenting larger discussion items (below) give brief updates about what they’re working on.
    • Membership
      • Chad (co-chair) has largely stepped down from the committee
      • Looking for more leadership
    • Governance
      • Committee currently has no active members
      • We need governance committee members
    • Merch
      • Just switched to category buying; now on second cycle of this system
      • Each committee member is responsible for one kind of merchandise, like meats or produce
      • One point person for each vendor submits order
      • Working on using Revel to track purchases; would need significant coordination with other committees to use for inventory tracking
      • Also need some new folks to join for some categories
    • Marketing & Outreach
    • Store Coordinators
      • New Store Coordinator bulletin (first sent this week)
      • Having a hard time filling in-store shifts
      • Staff working on focusing on streamlining processes (not nuts-and-bolts tasks like cashiering, etc.)
      • Looking for more coordinators who can step in as subs for occasional shifts; can be current members

Presentations and Community Discussion

Presentation: Tenancy at Current Location (10 min.)

Presenters: Cécile and Christina

  • Update on legal situation:
    • We were in court several times with our landlord, the Estate of Cecil Collymore
    • We know through our lawyer that the Collymores have dismissed their current lawyer
    • We are no longer in court for now
  • Tenancy at current location:
    • We have currently a 4-year lease at the current location (18 Putnam)
    • In June 2016, Collymores told us they have a sale agreement, which would allow them to break the lease
    • We have been back and forth in court since then
    • Our lease team has also tried to negotiate with the Collymores to preserve our tenancy at 18 Putnam under terms that are agreeable to both parties:
      • Landlord wants more than we can afford; we also want a clause that allows the landlord to terminate the lease with only 90-day notice removed
      • Landlord stopped negotiating after our last proposal
      • We cannot come to an agreement that is to the benefit of the Co-op
    • We believe there is a sale agreement with the current landlord and a developer;
      • The Collymores’ lawyer would not allow the details of this agreement to be shared with our membership, only our lawyer
      • We believe they will not show the sale agreement because whomever the developer is doesn’t want their name out there
    • The Collymores have not made their case for eviction in court
      • Court hearings so far have always been dismissed
      • If a new legal case proceeds successfully, we would have to evict within 90 days
      • It’s an insecure position
      • While we still have 4 years on our lease, we don't believe we will be able to stay for the duration.
    • We have continued to pay our rent on time every month, but all checks have since been returned to us uncashed; these uncashed checks go back to September

Presentation: Financial Situation (15 min.)

Presenters: Finance Committee (Annie and Bianca)

  • Finance committee summarized our current financial position
  • In short, we are currently making enough sales to maintain our current position
  • Members wanting more detailed financial information can contact for that information

Presentation: Relocation Effort (15 min.)

Presenters: Matthew

  • If we were asked to leave in 90 days, we need to have a place to go
  • Matthew, Cécile, Kevin have been leading the relocation team
  • Recently sent out a survey to all member-owners with two goals:
    • To make member-owners aware of the fact that we were looking for a space
    • To solicit member-owners’ opinions on location
  • What does the survey show?
    • Members have a more positive reaction to locations in Zones A and B:


  • Most respondents unaffected by a move to those zones or would shop more
  • Priority is to maintain walking distance from current location
  • Have been keeping track of places we’ve been looking at (over a dozen places now)
    • Some locations we can cross off the list after a quick initial screening
    • Have placed two bids; first was rejected by the property owner in favor of another bid
    • Currently in the process of negotiating a bid at a location in one of the geographic zones to have received the most positive feedback
  • The relocation team’s assessment is that no matter where we go, it’s likely going to be more rent than what we’re paying now
  • During last negotiations with Collymores, they threw out numbers that we believed were higher than market value (given condition of these three rooms) -- They stopped negotiating when we threw out numbers than we could afford
  • Basic criteria for properties:
    • Between $2000 and $4500 a month; would check out places up to $5000 a month and talk down
    • 1200 sq. ft. (comparable to our current shopping floor; can do with workable, finished basement) or 2000+; larger spaces if they’re willing to divide
  • Current square footage: 2800
  • If you see a For Lease sign, member-owners should check the list in the public relocation folder to see if it has already been contacted by members, call the lessor, and use a script the relocation team has created to collect information
    • If it fits within criteria, pass along to relocation committee
    • Don’t simply forward address or phone numbers to the committee; they can’t sift through everything that comes to them this way
  • Cecile will send out public folder -- all members are encouraged to participate in search!
  • The move is going to take significant member involvement
    • Physical move -- Just getting from one location to another
    • Financial impact -- Maintaining and growing sales before, during, and after the move
  • Member-owner engagement and leadership is vital to our continued success right now
  • Finance Committee recommendations about the move:
    • Don’t know what actual move will cost; this will depend on the space itself and extent of the build-out
    • Current obligations are greater than cash on hand
      • The move is likely to eat away from all of our cash reserves
      • We may also lose revenue when we first move due to lower sales
    • The committee recommends seeking a grant for the move, rather than financing it with additional loans
      • We’re legally a for-profit organization, so we cannot accept funds through most of the channels allowed to non-profit organizations
      • We also don’t fit the criteria for some grants designed to serve food deserts; these generally favor very large organizations
      • One possibility is to reach out to local politicians for City funding (Would be moving to Community Board 3)
      • Community Land Trusts and Mutual Housing Associations may also be able to host a food co-op
  • Build-out of the new store is expected to take a long time
  • When we first moved to 18 Putnam, we didn’t have to pay rent at first; this may not be the case in the new space, though it is a factor in our negotiations
  • The relocation team and board’s quietness about the move so far has been out of a desire to hold onto the leverage we have to negotiate our exit from our current space

Community Discussion (40 min.)

  • Finance committee reviewed the costs associated with closing the store:
    • We would have repay all financial obligations before repaying members
    • We likely could not voluntarily dissolve, leaving bankruptcy our option for closing
  • PSFC loan committee (Rachel) could imagine making another loan
    • They would want us to expand membership and sales, not downsize to a smaller space (1200 sq. ft. target may be too small)
    • They would want us to pursue a long-term project
    • They would also want to know that everyone who is a member of the Co-op actually works their shifts and would be engaged in working toward the move
    • Design/build team reports that we have architects and construction managers ready to roll
  • Member question: Do we have a business plan that is adapted to this current situation?
    • Summary:
      • Plan was to continue growing, expanding
      • Was stopped last June due to eviction notice
      • Need more information in order to adapt long-term plan
    • Member question: What factors besides increased hours have increased sales? What can we do in the meantime between now and move to increase sales?
      • Getting more bodies in the door has helped
        • PSFC member shopping
        • Zucchini plan
        • Trial membership
      • Consistency of operations from Store Coordinators
      • Increased merchandise, though we’re basically at the limit of what we can keep in stock and sell
    • Member labor:
      • Right now was when membership was going to do stricter enforcement of work shift policies
      • We have enough members to cover shifts; showing up is what keeps us running
      • Store Coordinators still see significant gaps on the schedule; we need more coverage
      • Member comment: We need more people to buy into the co-op model: product requests, work on committee; member involvement -- Understand what it means to be part of a working food co-op
    • Member comment: In response to getting more people here:
      • Similar to what PSFC does, do things that are exclusively here
      • Drive people to come here; then they’ll buy food
      • Generate traffic; have people come here (not online!)
      • E.g., skill-share, barter
    • What is it that we want to do, facing this situation? It seems like, no matter what, we’re going to have to move.
    • Member question: Could we use member equity to take out a mortgage and buy property?
    • Nothing we do is going to be cheap; nothing is going to be easy. (Put finance to the side for now -- it’s dire no matter what!)
    • What do we want?
      • Consider long-term options: longer-term lease or buying
      • Merging with another co-op or group should also be looked at
        • Matthew and Cecile talked about Central Brooklyn Food Co-op and current status
        • Store Coordinators also want to pursue this
      • Adding on to merging
      • Anything been explored with PSFC? Yes, but our timeline doesn’t match up with them (it would be a long-term process)
    • Member comment: Nobody wants us to close (temperature check)
    • Member question: What if we bought 18 Putnam?
    • Member comment: Looks like negotiating could be taking time away from something that could be an opportunity
      • Couldn’t we flip the script? No more crisis mode
      • Expanding -- bigger space -- more members!
      • Let negotiation go
    • Moving into new space a great opportunity for us (sell more if we had more fridges and freezers)
    • Dreams / hopes: Who’s going to work there? Member
    • Where do we want to be with new obstacles?
    • Moving -- Will be in a new community with new opportunities to sell healthy food
    • Going to lose members and gain members
    • Obstacles likely to remain what they are, regardless of where we are
    • More exciting, usable space
    • How can we do a better job working with the community than we are here?
    • What kind of Co-op do we imagine?
      • Childcare
      • Events
      • Education
      • Bulk Cheese
      • More Bulk
      • Beer
      • Olives
    • Being an asset to the community, not just a grocery store
    • Us moving is a small piece in a huge puzzle of gentrification -- We’re going to be pushed out, no matter what
      • Organizing efforts: local!
      • Put your skills to use; get involved in this
      • Space with a community -- Think broadly politically
    • Cooperative spirit:
      • If you really simplify things -- Why join co-op?
      • Broccoli is going to respond to my body
      • Healthy food -- healthy body -- appeal to health for you and your family
      • That’s why it’s worth shopping here! More basic than cooperation
    • What to resolve:
      • Relocation committee is very small
      • If we want to find an opportunity, more people will need to look for spaces
      • People are getting burnt out
    • Continue envisioning together -- How can board keep this going?

Closing (5 min.)

  • Follow-up email with meeting summary and opportunity for feedback to be sent to member-owners
  • Members who attended the meeting will receive 2 hours work credit

Meeting Attendance

Member-Owners Kelsy Chauvin Lindsay Reichart Karen Haskins Jesse Fink Emily Wilbourne Sigourney Woodfork Naceo Giles Annie Olszewski Rachel Lears Steve Russo Taylor Steel Lara Caballero Julia Garguilo John Trotter Aly Miller Pierre Andre Valerie Chin Gabriel De Geoleon Sarah Chinn Board Members Elizabeth Agee Christina LeMoine Cecile Arnaud-Gbongbro Christopher Gollmar