What the Owner Loan Campaign is Teaching Me About Chicago Market Owners

As we work to raise $1.8 million from Owners during our Owner Loan Campaign, I have been talking with a lot of them at our Happy Hours and coffee shop events, and I’ve learned something about them from their questions.

You might think they’d be asking about the mechanics of lending – How much can I loan? What do I fill out? When and how much do I get back later? And sure, they ask a few of those things, but far more prevalent are these questions:

Can our store make foods accessible to the community?

Will we hire in the community and pay fair wages?

Will there be lots of bulk foods and can we reduce plastic and food waste?

I am in awe of our Owners. They are lending to align with their values. Before they loan, they want to know more about how we can deliver on these crucial points. They want to know that their store, their Co-op, is a different kind of place, a place that values the community that surrounds it; a place that treats workers well, both on the farm and in the store; and a place that is hyper-mindful of the environment and always working to lessen our collective impact on it.

Wow, Owners, you are inspiring!

Thank you, sincerely, for investing your values. That is exactly the opportunity a co-op affords. The simple act of ASKING these questions represents Owners expressing their agency, their power as Owners. We, the Board, hear these questions. We know they are top-of-mind for you. And so, they are top-of-mind for us as well, because YOUR Co-op exists to serve you. And you are pretty united in your values of community, jobs and sustainability.

The Board, and eventually our general manager, will be focused on making foods as well as Ownership accessible to the community. We’ll accept LINK and are pursuing LINK Matching to double LINK value for shoppers. Our Outreach & Inclusion team will soon be presenting a lower cost Ownership structure to the Board for folks who need it so they can be represented voices in our democracy and consider running for the Board. And once open our general manager will look for pricing and product selection options that make healthy foods accessible.

We are committed to hiring as many people as possible from nearby. Our Memo of Understanding with Back on My Feet is a step in that direction and we’ll look for other ways to ensure when you walk in the store, the diversity of our neighborhood is represented.

And as for sustainability, we totally agree that we’ll need to pursue that at every turn. Our store design team is already tasked with making good sustainability decisions in build-out, construction and physical plant planning. We’ll move perishable goods toward prepared foods to prevent loss as well as donate, and at the end of the line, when needed, we’ll be sure to compost. And our bulk section will rock, allowing you to buy as much or as little as you need and reduce packaging.

Rest assured we are shepherding your values as much as we possibly can. And remember that there are teams of volunteers behind many of these initiatives right now, so speak up if you'd like to lean in and we'll plug you in once our Owner Loan Campaign is over. 

I am touched by your dedication to a grocery store that the community owns and that hews to such high values. It’s clear to me, we’ll get there together!

Grant Kessler

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