12/28 Update: Members vote to reduce membership price
Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote on a change to the current membership price. Over 125 Member-Owners voted and more than 90% supported this change. We are also grateful for your many thoughtful comments, including those from Member-Owners who opposed the motion.
The Board is excited to announce that effective Thursday December 29, 2022, the price to become a Full Equity Member-Owner in the Electric City Food Co-op is $25! This change allows us to grow our Member-Owner community as we continue cultivating social capital and raising financial capital in 2023.
This price reduction will allow many more people in our community to become engaged members and join our collective efforts to open a locally-owned food co-op in downtown Schenectady.
Details on how current Member-Owners can use their past investments to give opportunities to others to become Member-Owners are forthcoming, please stay tuned.
We look forward to working with you to make this store a reality in 2023. Thank you, again, to all of you who signed up to serve on ECFC committees at the 11/28 meeting. We will be reaching out early in 2023 with volunteer opportunities related to Membership, Marketing, Generally Manager selection, Finance, Community Outreach, Store Design, Product Mix, and more. Most importantly, we need to grow our membership of active community members.
On behalf of the ECFC Board of Directors, we thank you for your support and participation. We will provide many more details on our path forward in the new year. If you have questions or would like to talk to a Board Member about how to become more actively engaged in 2023, please email email@example.com.
President, ECFC Board of Directors
Moving Forward: Updates from 11/28
Greetings, ECFC Community!
Following up to our 11/28 meeting, we’re happy to share:
- some big thanks(!),
- several calls to action, and
- a meeting recap of what was presented and discussed.
Wow and thank you! Over 50 people joined us for an enthusiastic, engaged dialogue and team sign-up! At this critical juncture, your attention and commitment to bringing a member-owned, full-service community market to Schenectady will breathe life into the vision!
Thank you to the ECFC Member Owners from Schenectady Urban Farms/SCM, Niskayuna Co-op, and Honest Weight Co-op for supporting Electric City Food Co-op with their attendance – and for all they do to build a more just and sustainable food system. The evening was a great reminder of our collective commitment to practice the 6th principle of cooperative development – “coops support coops.” Thanks, also, to reporters from the Times Union and Albany Business Review for covering the story.
We also express our deep appreciation to County Legislators who attended — Omar McGill and MO Michelle Ostrelich — and to the entire County Legislature and the City of Schenectady for their investment of $4 million in our cooperative enterprise as part of their larger commitment to (1) build back better, together, and (2) provide greater food access within the City. It’s because of their willingness to invest in ECFC that we have the opportunity to lower the price of Full Equity Member-Ownership from $200 to $25.
The Calls to Action
(1) Member-Owners, it’s time to exercise your right to vote!
As prescribed in Bylaws, our Member Owner (MO) meeting on 11/28 served as the 30-day notice of a vote to change the cost of membership from $200 to $25 to create a more equitable path to food access. Voting on the motion will commence immediately and will end at the next MO meeting on Wednesday, December 28. You can vote online here.
(2) One and all, sign-up to move forward together!
Now is the time for all of us – from founding members to prospective members – to roll up our sleeves and work together to open our grocery in 2023. Thanks to everyone who signed up for a committee on 11/28. Here are the current teams where you can share some of your unique talents and energy:
- Member Relations
- Marketing and Community Engagement
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Environmental Sustainability
- Event Planning
- Finance and Grants
Contact Board member Tony Leva Tony Leva Email For Team Participation
(3) Ready to get on Board?
Our Board of Directors (BOD) are at the helm, supporting us as we navigate our path forward to a cooperative grocery – by the people, for the people. We have a small, inspired, and committed team today, and seats available for new leaders! Apply to join the Board of Directors today! Contact Board President Matt Robbins Board President Email for Joining BOD. If you’re curious and would like to learn more about coops and how Board service works, you may also explore the opportunity with Johan Matthews, who offers one-on-one and group coaching for the coop-curious through the Cooperative Fund of the Northeast.
(4) Help grow our movement and expand our membership!
A small team has begun to meet with Johan Matthews, consultant with Cooperative Fund of the Northeast, to design a membership campaign in a way that ensures communities who’ve been traditionally excluded from economic investment can engage in our cooperative enterprise. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll keep you informed about next time and location (TBD). Click here To help design our plan to expand membership.
(5) Share your experiences with food access
Complete the online Food Access Survey and invite your neighbors to do so, too.
The Meeting – 11/28
After the welcome and introduction by VP Chad Currin, one of the newest Member Owners Elizabeth Walsh and one of the longest Member Owners of ECFC Kat Wolfram told the story of how the Electric City Food Co-op opened its doors, reporting back as if from 2025. It went something like this:
Recognizing the vision of a more equitable, nourishing, and sustainable food system for Schenectady, community members formed a collective effort in Schenectady to bring a cooperative grocery store to the downtown area of Schenectady. At $200, a Good Neighbor Solidarity Fund, and a goal of 1000 MOs, they realized the cost of membership might be out of reach for many people in the community.
Then a pandemic hit. COVID served to expose truths about savage health disparities, structural racism, and flaws in the food system. Calling for a just transition to a regenerative economy that works for consumers and producers with cooperative development at the center, government leaders have responded, creating momentum around greater food access with the promise of a $4 million investment in one community-based solution for food access in the Electric City Food Co-op through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Plan Act (ARRPA).
Unprecedented funding opportunities from the County and the City meant that Electric City Food Co-op could meet financial capital targets without having the Member Owners bear the cost burden themselves. ECFC members voted to dramatically reduce the price of membership from $200 to $25. Because of that, ECFC entered a new phase of unparalleled growth and community support and will open its doors on Liberty St. by the end of 2023.
We continue to rely on our collective strengths to become a catalyst for a just and & regenerative food system, accountable to each other and to the environment which sustains us.
The Co-op Business Model
Johan Mathews of Cooperative Fund of the Northeast spoke briefly about the importance of the cooperative business model. He emphasized that the pandemic revealed that cooperative economic development is one of the best strategies for advancing community resilience and social equity. To learn more about coops:
- Check out these resources from the Cooperative Fund,
- Sign up for the Cooperative Fund’s newsletter, for updates on events and opportunities, and/or
- Check out The Coop Cnxn, an online learning community for the Co-op curious.
Relatively new MO Eric Johnson then described the timeline of events which brought the Electric City Food Co-op to a more equitable financial position.
- December, 2021 – Application by ECFC for ARRPA funds
- January, 2022 – Joint exploratory committee between HWFC and ECFC formed
- February, 2022 – Schenectady County commits $3 million for the project
- May, 2022 – HWFC working MOs vote to continue support for exploration of expansion into Schenectady – 80% of voting working MOs
- August, 2022 – Updated market study completed on 530 Liberty St. & call for 8500 sq. ft. of retail space
- September, 2022 – City of Schenectady awards $1 million of ARRPA funds to ECFC
- September, 2022 – Schenectady County announces additional State St. grocery location, while maintaining support for downtown ECFC project
Questions & answers from the meeting will be posted in the FAQs on the website. Stay tuned! https://www.electriccityfood.coop/frequently-asked-questions/
Background & Ongoing Activity
- The joint ECFC/HWFC committee continues to meet weekly, Thursdays and Fridays.
- ECFC Board Member Adine Viscusi represents ECFC on the Steering committee of the newly formed Food Council of Schenectady.
- ECFC has renewed conversation on collaboration with SUNY Schenectady and Union College.
- Continued conversations with County Legislature, City Council and Metroplex development authority.
- St George’s Greek church, Liberty St. location neighbor on possible collaboration with the Hellenic Center for possible use as a community space.
- Design and planning meetings with Envision Architecture, BBL and Redburn.
- Preliminary detailed budget drafted
- Renewal of all Corporate sponsors, MVP, Hill & Markes, First National Bank of Scotia & Farm Bureau
- Meetings with NCG (National Cooperative Grocer), FCI (Food Co-op Initiative), and NFCA (Neighboring Food Co-op Association)
The Motion – read by Chad Currin
Revise membership price from $200 to $25 to make membership more equitable.
- Equity members ($200) can gift 7 memberships to others, or gift 7 memberships to the Good Neighbor/Scholarship Fund.
- Any amount over $25 paid toward membership can be donated or gifted as memberships in $25 increments.
Attendees at the meeting migrated over to the table and wall where Board member Tony Leva engaged folx in discussions about how they would like to be more involved.
We can do more and better together!
It’s not just about food. It’s about community!
Come one, Come All! 11/28 Coop Convening
- Who: You, all ECFC member-owners, and anyone who’d like to learn more about our timely opportunity to open a cooperative grocery in Downtown Schenectady!
- What: Member-Owner/Open Community Meeting
- When: Monday, November 28, 4:00pm – 6:00pm
- Where: True Juice Cafe, 251 State Street, Schenectady
Please RSVP Here!
The future of Electric City Food Co-op is at a critical juncture. We hope that you can join us for an important meeting to discuss the future of the Co-op and how you can help bring this market to life!
The meeting will feature updates on the latest developments for a downtown location, new membership options, funding, and partnerships with fellow food co-ops and the recently formed Food Council. We will also discuss efforts to build additional community support for a food co-op, and how you can get more involved. Now is our moment to realize a downtown community owned grocery. By the people, and for the people.
This meeting is open to ECFC member-owners and everyone interested in learning more about the unprecedented and timely opportunity to open our cooperative grocery in Downtown Schenectady
Refreshments will be provided.
Any questions? Please contact Sherry Tomasky, Board Secretary, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please feel free to share this invite from our e-newsletter with others!
April 7, 2022
Exploring with the Honest Weight Food Co-op
There are some exciting updates on our joint exploratory committee with Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC) to consider the viability of establishing a food co-op in downtown Schenectady.
Both Co-op boards have been looking at multiple aspects of this opportunity, including how membership will be defined, site selection and funding, and perhaps most critically, how will a second full-service co-op in Schenectady will benefit Honest Weight.
In looking at whether the project held potential financial benefit for Honest Weight, HWFC’s CFO Erin Martin, interim COO and Director of Operations Stephen Quickenton, and HWFC Treasurer Jack Mahoney have gathered information to create a financial analysis (pro forma) to answer that question.
On March 29, the team presented a pro forma to the HWFC Finance Committee showing the financial benefit of a Schenectady HWFC location. Based on this information, the HWFC Finance Committee unanimously recommended to continue the exploration.
The HWFC Board then reviewed this information at their April 5 Board meeting and voted to recommend the pursuit of this opportunity for a Membership vote.
Over the next 6-8 weeks, HWFC will update and educate their membership on the findings of the pro forma and will hold a meeting in late May to ask their membership whether to continue to pursue this opportunity.
It is anticipated that there will be several touchpoints with our ECFC members along the way as well, including more surveys, and a special membership meeting later this spring to update you on the developments of this exploration, and answer any questions you have.
The affirmative vote from the HWFC board is a positive step in this process and signifies the commitment from both co-op boards to continue this process.
Please stay tuned for information on ECFC member meetings to learn more about the HWFC collaboration, and an announcement about our June annual meeting.
Cooperatives around the world operate according to the same set of core principles and values, adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance. One of these principles is “Cooperation Among Cooperatives,” which states that by working together, cooperatives bolster local economies and effectively innovate to meet social and community needs.
In the spirit of cooperation, Honest Weight Food Co-op and Electric City Food Co-op are excited to announce to our memberships that we have formed a joint exploratory committee on the topic of bringing a food co-op to the food desert in downtown Schenectady.
Many of you will know Honest Weight as the leading food co-op in the capital region. Honest Weight has been successfully operating as a cooperative grocer in Albany for over 45 years, and currently has over 10,000 Owners and nearly 200 employees. In 2013, Honest Weight expanded to their current 30,000 sq. ft. location at 100 Watervliet Ave., in the West Hill Neighborhood of Albany. In 2021, their annual sales were nearly $29 million. The Honest Weight Kitchen also operates satellite locations in the concourse of Empire State Plaza, and a brand-new location open to the public on campus at Maria College.
Electric City Food Co-op has been working since 2013 to bring a new cooperative market to Schenectady featuring local, organic, and sustainably produced natural foods, supporting the regional economy and farmers, and creating a local food revolution. With 435 Member-Owners and counting, Schenectady area residents have shown that there is both an interest and a need for a cooperative grocer in this community. Building a partnership with Honest Weight will allow both food co-ops to explore the possibilities of working together to bring a member-owned food store to Schenectady. The exploratory committee will meet over the course of the next 2-3 months.
Solving the food desert in Schenectady is a regional priority, and one that is shared by both Electric City and Honest Weight. It is a conversation that we are incredibly excited to be a part of. We know that you will have questions about how this impacts your membership. We will be focusing on what this means for the operation of, and memberships of, both cooperatives during the exploratory process. We are committed to providing information in multiple formats, including informational sessions, email updates, and tabling events as conditions allow in the coming weeks and months. We welcome your questions, and we are committed to keeping our membership updated on progress and next steps. Please send your questions to us at email@example.com.
Electric City Food Co-op Board of Directors
Honest Weight Food Co-op Board of Directors & Management Team