The Road Not Yet Traveled

  | Food For Thought, GM Report

And how are you holding up? Now that we know we are running a marathon of indeterminate length, the stress of adjustment has a different feel. However, along with resignation, regret, and concern, we have discovered new ways to minister to ourselves, and also to harness some of that concern and anger into action. If you are “friends” with the Brattleboro Food Co-op on social media, you’ve seen more and more ways to channel frustration into real change, and more understanding of how we can impact our food system and our country. Stay with it—we cannot be complacent in either our exercise of safe health practices, nor in working for lasting social change.

As I indicated last month, we are making changes that we feel are necessary to weather the current and future economic downturn, as well as to continue positioning ourselves as the vital community resource that our owners expect. These changes are many, and some of them are initially very difficult, while others are rather exciting as we move forward, always considering and choosing what we wish to prioritize in the hopes that we will improve our collective prosperity.

The most difficult and far-reaching decision is that we have decided to bring Dottie’s back into the main store at the end of this calendar year. Dottie’s has been struggling to achieve reasonable sales levels for quite some time. We responded initially by modifying open hours to better balance the expenses of that location and labor, and that worked for a while. But in the last year and a half, we have seen this balance erode. Closing a store is always a difficult decision. We will mitigate that choice by planning to offer the “Dottie’s Difference” in a section of our main store, thereby continuing to make available value-driven discount options for shoppers who need or enjoy them. We will, of course, be forced to shrink the number of offerings and the categories offered, but we are aware that this need exists and will continue to exist in the downtown area, so we are working hard to squeeze this department into our floor plan. Where we cannot manage to merchandise certain categories in the Dottie’s section, we will ensure that the product selection in those categories in the rest of the store will address the needs of Dottie’s faithful. We are canvassing customers to better understand the selections that are most valued, so be sure to stop in and let us know. The staff at Dottie’s is actively working to help us figure that out. Our intention is to fold Dottie’s staff into our main store operation; we will continue to operate the current Flat Street location through the fall as we prepare to downsize and move some of the inventory into the main store. Be sure to shop Dottie’s frequently in the next few months as we will need your help to winnow the inventory to a manageable level to relocate. We are also working with the town to assist with finding a suitable tenant for that location.

Other changes: we are redeploying the Bulk department, yet again, to better manage the current situation of bagged items and service bulk. We will be installing some limited gravity feed bins for self-service, as well as reorganizing the space rather radically to make things a bit more efficient, and to make room for the Dottie’s section. Some adjustments will be made in the grocery aisles as well, as we reconfigure several categories of products near their packaged counterparts. In all of these changes, we are trying to be mindful of shopper needs for space, as well as sanitizing requirements.

We are also—slowly but surely—continuing the reawakening of the Deli. As you have seen, we have more delicious grab-and-go options for two to pop in an oven for dinner, as well as take-and-make pizza fixings, along with prepared entrées, sandwiches, and smoothies. We considered reopening the indoor café recently, but decided that the COVID-era management of patrons’ use was more than we could handle at this time. We are, however, making more outside spaces available for you where you may enjoy your delicious ready-to-eat Deli choices.

And the big news is that we have launched (softly) our online platform for curbside pickup. It’s not complete, but lots of our inventory is available online now, along with a few curbside appointments every day. As we get better at this integration, more and more appointments will be released. The best part is that you can make your order anytime. Check out the progress on our website. We will continue to offer phone ordering for curbside as well, at least for the foreseeable future.

At long last we will be replacing the pavers in the driveway of the Co-op sometime later this month. There will be a lane for access to the parking lot throughout the work. We look forward to even footing!

I realize that change is difficult, and recently, we humans have had to bear more of them than we ever imagined, but I truly believe that we can make these changes work, and that they will better prepare us for the next chapter as it unfolds. Thank you for your forbearance as we work our way through this very challenging year. We hope to come out the other side a little better off.

See you in the aisles, hopefully smiling behind your mask,


By Sabine Rhyne, General Manager