By Leslie Savage
The winds of change blow fairly gently through Revelstoke, but “We need a co-op in Revelstoke” is a phrase I’ve heard more than a few times lately.
In your view, is Revelstoke ready for a co-op? The survey at the end of this article may help to answer that question. Whether or not you support the co-op idea, we’d like to hear your thoughts pro and con a retail co-op.
First, some background. According to the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association, a co-op is “ a business owned by its members who also use its services.” Examples are in the finance sector—credit unions are co-operatives; in the retail sector—Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is one. So is Vancouver’s East End Food Co-op. I grew up in a suburban called Fairhaven, an Ottawa residential co-op started in 1952 that has effectively saved a neighbouring deserted quarry from development, built a tennis court, and preserved the woodland lots as treed areas. When I was young we produced our own maple syrup. Co-ops are part of Canadian scene, and have been for a long time.
Details about how community co-operatives operate can be found at the at the British Columbia co-op site, with member list, http://www.bcca.coop/. For the Alberta example, see the ACCA site at http://acca.coop/ .
To start a co-op, you need a vision shared by enough people to put together sufficient funding for a start-up venture.
Here’s one vision for a retail co-op I’ll provisionally call The Revelstoke Co-op Country Store. One notion of what it could look like:
- An old-fashioned country store frontage, in keeping with the heritage look of downtown Revy, staffed locally, and stocking, among other things;
- a range of goods not otherwise available today in Revelstoke: for example—basic fabrics and notions, such as rolls of canvas and; cotton; paddles and lifejackets; duffles and other practical luggage; plastic by the roll in various grades;
- fresh local produce; bulk food items; speciality foods and deli items;
- low-cost groceries, to compete with the out-of-town superstores where lots of residents now go to buy food;
- fresh, locally made pies, jams, jellies, chutneys and frozen berries supplied by residents and canned, frozen or pickled
- artisan items on consignment by local artists and crafters; and
- imports that may be of interest to members.
Here’s a synopsis of one possible operational mode:
- people buy either a member share ($500/one-time) or a membership ($50/year), with the goal of raising $100,000 for start-up costs;
- all members get a discount on all purchases;
- administration is by voting of the membership at an AGM; and
- executive authority is exercised by a committee of share members and includes membership representatives.