How is a co-op different from other grocery stores?

A co-op (short for cooperative) is 100% independently owned and operated. Co-ops are mission-driven rather than profit-driven: the co-op is committed to benefitting its owners. As a co-op owner (sometimes known as a member), you own and operate the co-op with others in your community. Shopping at a co-op puts money back into the business and community, pooling resources to boost the local economy. Co-ops are a radical economic movement!

Do I have to be an owner to shop at the Belfast Community Co-op?

No, everyone is welcome to shop at the Belfast Community Co-op!

If anyone can shop at the store, why should I pay to become an owner? What are the benefits?

Becoming an owner gives you a unique opportunity to support a democratic organization and collaborate with neighbors who care about healthy food, a good work environment, and local food producers. Unlike traditional grocers, co-ops are owned and governed by the people in their community and are rooted in principles like sustainability, accountability, and community. By joining the Belfast Community Co-op, you are helping to ensure the success of a locally-owned grocery store that provides the entire community with access to safe, high-quality, local, natural, and organic food. Also, co-ops and their money are owned and controlled by their owners: your ownership gives you a voice in guiding the Co-op’s future.

Owners are given an owner number and account so that they may receive special incentives such as Owner Rewards (points for every dollar spent that add up to discounts), quarterly coupons, and pre-order discounts. Additionally, when the Co-op generates positive net income, a portion of those profits go back to owners in the form of Patronage Dividends; the amount of the dividends are based on money spent at the Co-op.

Do Co-op owners have to work shifts at the store?

No, Co-op owners do not work shifts at the store. That ended in the late ‘90s.

How do I become an owner of the Belfast Community Co-op?

Becoming an owner is easy and quick! Sign up at any register in the store, at the customer service counter, or online here or by emailing ownership@belfast.coop.

How much does it cost to become an owner?

Equity in the Belfast Community Co-op is $200 per individual. This can be paid all at once, or in $15 per year increments. We also have an Equity Assistance Fund for those who need it; please talk to us for more information.

What is equity, how does it work, and why do I have to pay it?

Equity is the individual monetary investment in the Belfast Community Co-op that transforms you from a shopper to an owner! Each time you make a purchase at our store and give your ownership number, your purchase amount is recorded. At the end of the fiscal year, a portion of any profits the Co-op achieves can be returned to owners based on their individual purchases in the form of a Patronage Dividend.

What does it mean to be a fully vested owner?

A fully vested owner has paid their equity in full and is no longer required to make annual payments.

I pay equity in installments. How will I know when my next equity payment is due?

You will be reminded annually at the register to pay your next equity installment. The cashier can check your account to see how much equity you have paid already and how much you have left.

INTENTIONALLY HIDDEN ELEMENT - Can my equity be returned?

If you would like to withdraw your investment from the Co-op, the Board of Directors has the power to purchase back your share if the Belfast Community Co-op is in good financial health.

Can my equity be returned?

If you would like to withdraw your investment from the Co-op, the Board of Directors has the power to purchase back your share if the Belfast Community Co-op is in good financial health.

Do you have household accounts?

No, the Co-op has single and multi-owner accounts. Each adult listed on the account is required to be an owner and to invest equity in the Co-op.

Who can I contact if I have questions about my account?

Anyone on our Marketing Department team would be happy to help. The best way to contact us is to email ownership@belfast.coop.

Can I add additional adults to my account?

As of 2022, we are no longer signing up multiple adults on the same account–one owner, one account! This system helps the Co-op when it comes to online voting, equity distribution, and equity issues that arise from death or divorce. For accounts that already have multiple owners, there will be no change at this time.

Can my children use my account?

Children of owners can use their parents’ account until their 23rd birthday.

Why can only the people listed on my account use the account?

Only the people listed on the account are Co-op owners and therefore entitled to benefits.

How do I remove someone from my account?

If you are the primary owner on the account, you can remove additional owners by filling out an Ownership Form in the store. Cashiers and staff at the service desk can provide you with this form.

If you are the secondary owner on the account you can request to be removed from the account but the equity is legally held by the primary owner and can not be transferred into your name without the primary owner’s authorization.

What if a loved one has passed away and they have a Co-op account?

If the equity on the account needs to be refunded or the name on the account needs to be changed, most often you will need to present either a death certificate or a Letter of Appointment of Executor. Please contact ownership@belfast.coop.

What if I have another question?

Please direct any questions to info@belfast.coop.

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