Questions We Are Being Asked
If you have additional questions please let us know
Q - Who can join the Creamery Co-op?
A - Membership is open to all. Anyone who purchases an equity share becomes a Member-Owner.
Q - Will I have to be a member to shop at the Old Creamery Co-op?
A - No! Everyone will be welcome to shop at the Co-op. We expect that many customers will not be Member-Owners.
Q - Why should I become a Member-Owner of the Creamery Co-op?
A - The primary reason to become a Member-Owner is to keep the Old Creamery in our community, continuing to operate with its present values.
Under Alice and Amy‘s ownership, the Old Creamery has become a vibrant and vital community business that keeps money in our community. It offers wholesome, environmentally sustainable food and products; supports local producers and other community businesses and organizations; employs many local people; and serves as a gathering place and a center for creative community.
By becoming a Member-Owner of the Co-op, you will be doing your part to ensure that this wonderful resource continues to serve and nurture our community.
Q - I get the part about keeping the store and its values in the community, and that is clearly a big reason to join, but are there economic benefits as well?
A - Of course! First of all, you will be eligible for a special discount on purchases made during Member Appreciation Days, which we plan to hold four times a year. If you make large purchases on those days, it’s possible for you to earn back the equivalent of your initial equity investment over time.
Second, we plan to use a Patronage Dividend System. This means that in years when the Co-op makes a profit and does not need to use the money for the business or improvements, the Co-op will pay dividends to Member-Owners based on the amount of their Co-op purchases.
And finally, after we have been a Co-op for a while we will be able to join an association that negotiates discounted wholesale food prices from distributors, so everyone in the community will be able to enjoy lower prices on many products.
Q - What kind of money is needed to actually make the Creamery Co-op a reality?
A - We have to raise money to buy the Creamery business, its buildings, fixtures, grounds, and inventory. We also need money for an operating reserve, and to purchase new equipment for the Co-op. We want to make improvements to the store layout and parking, as well as address other needs of the business. We estimate the total cost to be $1,261,500, with about 42% of the cost coming from outside financing (a local bank has already committed the funds). The other 58% will come from the community, through member-owner equity payments ($75,000), gifts and grants ($225,000), Member-Owner loans ($285,000), and financing from the current owners ($140,000).
These numbers are subject to change as the business planning process evolves.
Q - Can a co-op of this scale really happen in the Hilltowns?
A - All indications are yes! We have a solid plan in place and we have good momentum building. Many community members with a wide range of expertise have participated in developing this plan, and we have also sought advice, counsel, and assistance from many outside experts, as well as the management and board members of several regional co-ops. We have received a financing commitment from a local bank and we have met our initial member equity and fundraising goals, and are now busy raising the balance of funds needed to meet our Member-Owner loan goals. Some of the elements of this project are not in our control, for example, the liquor license transfer. However, we are aiming for the opening of the Old Creamery Co-op just as soon as possible. Once we purchase the business we will begin the planned renovations to the building and grounds. We will continue to provide updates and progress reports to our Member-Owners and others on our mailing list, and through postings in the store.
Q - Will Member-Owners get their money back if we are not able to raise enough money to buy the Old Creamery?
A - Yes. Member-Owner equity payments are kept in an escrow account at a bank. If we do not raise enough money to purchase the Old Creamery we will return all Member-Owner equity payments.
Q - As a member, will I get a discount?
A - Member-Owners will be entitled to special discounts on purchases they make on Member Discount Days, which will occur four times a year. However, like most co-ops, the Co-op will not give discounts on purchases at the cash register, because it is impossible to know until the end of the year how much profit the co-op will have available to share with its members.
Q - Will members of my family be able to shop on my membership?
A - Yes. When the Co-op formally opens, associate cards will be available for additional members of a household, but only the Member-Owner, and not others in the household, will have the right to vote at meetings of Member-Owners. We are encouraging any household that can afford multiple individual memberships to buy them, but it is just fine for a household to have a single Member-Owner.
Q - Will other co-ops honor my membership, and can I accumulate purchases at multiple co-ops toward Patronage Dividends?
A - Most co-ops allow members of other co-ops to qualify for their special member discounts. However, Patronage Dividends accrue only to members of the co-op where the purchase is made. Patronage Dividends paid by the Creamery Co-op will be made only on purchases by its own Member-Owners at the Creamery Co-op. (This benefit will not go into effect until the purchase of the Old Creamery is complete.)
Q - Are Member-Owners of the Co-op personally liable if the Co-op gets sued?
A - No. Member-Owners are not personally liable for what the Co-op does, or fails to do. Furthermore, the Co-op will have comprehensive liability insurance to help protect it in the case of any lawsuit. If the Co-op were to be sued and found liable for an amount greater than its insurance, the equity shares of Member-Owners could diminish in value or be lost, but the loss would be limited to the cost of the shares.
Q - Okay, but what are the risks to me if the Co-op is created but turns out not to be successful?
A - We are optimistic that the co-op conversion will take place and that the community will enjoy a thriving co-op well into the future. Of course, in any business venture there are always risks. If the Co-op were to fail, it is possible that Member-Owners might lose some or all of their equity in the Co-op, but that is all.
Q - Who will be “in charge” of the Co-op?
A - At present, the Board of Directors of The Old Creamery Cooperative, Inc. is responsible for the oversight of the cooperative development effort. The Board, formerly known as the Steering Committee, consists of volunteers who have been working since February 2010 on this project.
Once The Old Creamery Cooperative, Inc. has purchased the business from Amy and Alice, there will be a transition period. A new Board will be elected by Member-Owners at their first annual meeting. At that meeting the objectives of the Co-op will be determined by a vote of the Member-Owners. Only Member-Owners will be eligible to serve on the Board. The Board of Directors will hire and supervise a General Manager, who will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the co-op store operations.
Q - Will Member-Owners be required to work at the Co-op?
A - No. The store will be fully staffed by employees.
Q - Will Member-Owners have the right to work at the store for a discount on purchases or some other benefit?
A - We will not have a formal worker-discount program at the Co-op. We have learned that many co-ops across the country have eliminated this practice because of labor law and tax law issues. Any individual is always welcome to speak with the general manager about the possibility of volunteering to help with ongoing or one-time tasks.
Q - What can I do to help?
A - Please help us spread the word about the Co-op. Send your ideas, suggestions, and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please consider joining the Co-op today. You can do so HERE or you can stop by the store to pick up our brochure and membership application. And, as always, one of the most effective ways to offer your support is to shop at the Old Creamery.