Minutes from 9/30 Member Meeting

At the Near East Side Cooperative Market, we have many assets and strengths.  But as we continue to work with a business model that no longer matches our skills or our mission, we have also faced many obstacles.  In response to these obstacles, the NESCM is considering a significant change in our business model and our strategic approach, which will move us away from a grocery store model and towards a community engagement model, which would be executed by a newly incorporated Non-Profit organization.  We would retain our space at 89 Parsons, which could become a hub for community gatherings and educational programming, and we would revisit our grocery bag services.

This is a significant change to NESCM’s strategic approach.  In accordance with our bylaws and our consciences, we would not embark on such a change without collecting community input and feedback.  We held a member meeting on Sunday, September 30.  What follows are the minutes from that meeting.    We would be anxious to hear your thoughts on NESCM, its current state and its future.  Please use our contact page to reach out with any thoughts, or suggestions.


In attendance:

From NESCM:  Monique McCrystal (Chair), Rashaan Cargile Gregory, Tokeshia Stephens, Morgan Michelle, Raleigh Miller.

Absent: Lynn Stan

From the Community:  Connie, Fred, Deborah

  1. Current State of the Co-op
    1. In spite of our obstacles and troubles, our doors remain open
    2. We have had successes and challenges.
      1. Successes
        1. FFH
          1. We have enrolled in, and complied with, the United Way of Central Ohio’s FFH program, which aims to ensure that easy access to nutritious fare is available to low-income neighborhoods in the Central Ohio neighborhood.
          2. Because of the strength of our relationship with FFH, we have received grants to make substantial structural improvements to NESCM’s interior.
        2. Clover
          1. For a long time we were substantially hindered by our lack of a working POS system.  We have just recently rectified this by adopting an affordable, flexible CLOVER POS system.  It’s tablet and cloud based, and we believe it will create an enhanced costumer experieince.
        3. Improvement of Physical Space
          1. We have added a lot of shelving to the center of the store, and we are looking ahead to getting our freezer fixed.
        4. Hot Chicken Takeover Partnership
          1. Thanks to our long standing relationship with Joe of Hot chicken Takeover, we were the beneficiary’s of numerous HCT pop up stand events.  This has generated extra revenue for the store, and it’s increased our visibility and community engagement.
        5. Partnership with St. Stephens Community House
          1. Because of our workforce needs, we partnered with St. Stephens Community House to provide employment opportunities to at-risk youths, by working with a program that would make it revenue neutral for NESCM.
          2. this went less well than expected, and we were not able to retain the student employees.  However, we believe that this has forged a positive relationship, which we could grow from in the future.
        6. Website
          1. Our Website recently took a turn for the awesome.
          2. But then the guy in charge of it got a little lazy and it actually doesn’t get updated that often.
          3. This topic was not actually discussed at the meeting.  But it probably deserves to be mentioned.
      2. Challenges
        1. Our Freezer is broken and has been for a long time.
          1. As a result, we can not serve the meat products that many of our customers valued at our previous location
        2. Our cash flow is inadequate and unsustainable.
        3. We lack volunteer support, and past efforts at volunteer outreach have been disorganized and ineffective.  As a result, we cannot remain open for an entire workweek without having to close at some point for lack of store coverage.
        4. We believe that our membership is not being successfully engaged, and that board members are overworked as a result of lack of community support.  But we also believe that the board is responsible for that lack of support, as community engagement is our responsibility.
        5. We are being sued for $9000 for perceived liabilities at our former address.  We believe the suit is disproportionate and we will be doing what we can to challenge it.
      3. Collectively, this means we are running a store that is inadequately stocked and staffed, which will not improve until we generate a sustainable cash flow, which will not happen until we more successfully engage our community to participate, which will not happen until we can clearly show that we are a value add to the community, which will not happen until we manage to successfully turn our store into something the community values, something we can’t presently do because our store is inadequately stocked and staffed.  We find ourselves spinning our wheels, and we’re facing the spectre of a potentially crippling lawsuit.  It’s time for NESCM to make a change.
    3. Transition to a Nonprofit
      1. Our plan is to dissolve NESCM and reincorporate as a nonprofit, with a name TBD (suggestions welcome).
      2. This nonprofit would place a priority on uplifting the community and bringing people together, while focusing on nutrition- and wellness-centered education programs.  We would also seek to identify and address barriers to access for those on the East Side.
      3. This would be an evolution beyond the grocery store business model within which we have been working.   Our new operations, housed in our current Parsons location, would be built around our original buying club structure, and would be centered on our garden bag services.  But the long-term shape and strategy of our organization would be determined and shaped by community need and demand.
      4. Our space is an asset that can bring in addtional stakeholders and possible educational presenters.
      5. The construction on I-71 will impact our business soon, though the long term impact of that construction will create increased access in the future.
      6. The Arts Foundation of Olde Towne will serve as a fiscal agent to the new organizatio0n.

Please, please please be in touch if you have any ideas or suggestions for the future of the Cooperative market.  Do you like this idea?  If so, where would you like to see the coop go and what would you like to see us offer?  Do you hate this idea?  If so, what do you currently believe are the greatest value adds that NESCM offers to the community, and how do you think we can leverage those assets to become a sustainable operation.

Thank you to you all for your engagement and your support over the years.  We all believe that NESCM’s most important work is in its future.

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