Update from the General Manager

Mar 17, 2023 | Co-ops, Homepage, News, updates

March 17th, 2023

“It is so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done.”

-Matthew Arnold

The days are growing longer.  Where the snow has been pushed aside we see the first signs of life returning, to our quiet coastal town, waking up from what felt like a long, dark winter.  The snow came late, but it came with a vengeance, making it hard for us to keep the doors open and the lights on during the worst of it.  However difficult the hardships, your community-owned Co-op made it through, and now the air smells of spring and renewal.

BCC sales for the first half of the fiscal year have been steady, up 3% from last year. We had a busy holiday season with sales in the week leading up to Thanksgiving up 7.5% over the previous year, and even without being able to offer Tide Mill local organic turkeys this year we still sold over 2100 lbs. of local turkey. Our Prepared Foods department had an epic Thanksgiving selling 123 Co-op Made pies that week, a 66% increase over the previous year!  We had our single highest sales day ever ($62,367) and our highest sales week ever ($273,611) during the week leading up to Christmas. We sold 161 MOFGA-certified Christmas trees from Skyscraper Hill Farm in Brooks, ME, and another 64 Co-op Made pies during the Christmas holiday.  

We closed on our renovation loan through the Cooperative Fund of the Northeast (in collaboration with Coastal Enterprises Inc. and the Local Enterprises Assistance Fund) at the end of January.  We will be utilizing the funds from the loan as well as those from our Owner Capital Campaign to renovate and expand our store beginning in May.  We are close to the end of our Owner Capital Campaign and all indicators point towards the campaign being a success.  With those funds we will be increasing our retail square footage by 33%, increasing both our dry and refrigerated grocery department by 100 linear feet and nearly doubling our Bulk offerings.  The renovation will allow us to bring back our co-op cafe while still allowing us to operate the Shop for Me program in a new, more efficient space.  We will be replacing and making necessary (and long overdue) upgrades to our infrastructure, including electrical, plumbing, and HVAC, as well as a monumental upgrade to worker safety and operational efficiency by including in the project the addition of a vertical lift.  Thank you to all of the owners who have agreed to loan to the Co-op to fund this project.  I am in awe of your generosity and your overwhelming support.  If you have questions or would like to get involved, please contact me at doug@belfast.coop

 This past February we hosted our first hybridized in-person/virtual Annual Meeting.  The in-person meeting was held at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast with around 30 owners in attendance and another 21 attending virtually.  At the meeting we discussed the successes and challenges of the past year, the status of our Renovation Project and Capital Campaign, introduced our candidates for the Board of Directors election, and opened the floor for questions and answers.  Huge thank you to our fantastic Prepared Foods team for providing food and refreshments for the meeting.  We released our Annual Report for 2022 as well, you can find a copy in-store or on our website.  To read more about the meeting and to watch the video recording go to belfast.coop/annual-meeting-2023.

At the Annual Meeting, we announced the patronage dividend distribution for the 2022 fiscal year.  Our Co-op made $211,828 in pre-tax net income at the end of the fiscal year.  Roughly 66.7% of sales were to owners, meaning that $137,900 is eligible for distribution.  Of that, 20% or $27,580 will be payable back to owners based on their purchases in the 2022 FY.  Similar to last year, once distributed each owner will be given options at the register of how to utilize their 2021-2022 dividend, including using it toward purchases at the Co-op, paying towards their equity balance, receiving cash or check payout, or donating it towards the Equity Assistance Fund which helps sponsor owner equity for those in need.  After the deadline for claiming your dividend has passed, any full or partially unclaimed distributed dividends will be donated to But Still I Am One.

Also at the Annual Meeting, we announced that the Belfast Community Co-op is now the first co-op in the state of Maine that is able to offer the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program, better known as WIC.  WIC provides complete nutrition care for thousands of Maine families, helping Maine kids to grow up strong and healthy.  The WIC program serves more than 16,500 individuals. Pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age five are eligible. Bringing WIC on board has been a labor of love for me and our entire operational team and I am so proud of everyone who helped make it a reality.  More information about all of the programs that we currently offer to combat food insecurity in our community can be found belfast.coop/food-access.

Spring in Maine is a gift.  It is a reminder of why we have chosen to put down roots in this corner of the world.  Get out there and experience everything that our community has to offer.  While you are at it, stop into the Co-op and say “hi”.  It’s been a long winter but we made it through together.  Owned by you.  Food for all.

Doug Johnson, General Manager 

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