Annual Meeting

Join fellow Co-op owners at the Red Building Loft in Astoria for a delicious meal, great music, and lots of information about our expansion. The meeting is on Sunday September 17 at 5 p.m. and includes:

  • Dinner made with local ingredients by Chef Andrew Catalano
  • Wine tasting with Galaxy Wine
  • Live music by the Columbians (with Spud Siegel)
  • Unveiling of our new store design
  • Launch of our expansion capital campaign
  • Brief annual report from our general manager
  • Board election
  • Raffles and more

The event is free, but please RSVP on our Eventbrite page, so we know how much food to make.

Parade Route and the Co-op

Folks, expect vehicle access to the store to be closed during the Regatta parade on Saturday August 12. Exchange Street in front of the co-op will be closed around 10:30 and will re-open after the parade gets over (which may be around 1-2 p.m.).

More from Astoria 911 Dispatch:

Astoria Regatta Grand Land Parade / Expect traffic disruptions

The Astoria Police Department is issuing a reminder that the Astoria Regatta Association Grand Land Parade begins at 12:00 P.M. on Saturday August 12th 2017.  Traffic will be disrupted through the downtown core beginning at about 8:00 A.M.

At 8:30 A.M. Exchange Street will be closed between 23rd and 16th.  The Hospital, its urgent care and the Park Medical Building will be accessible from Marine Drive at 20th, 21st, and 23rd.

Exchange and Duane between 17th and 9th will have no on street parking on Saturday until the parade ends.  The no parking areas will be signed and any vehicle parked at those locations will be removed by a tow truck.  The owner will be responsible for the tow fees.

At about 10:30 a.m. all streets that travel north or south (the number streets) will be closed between Commercial Street and Franklin Street between 17th and 8th. These traffic disruptions will last until the parade had ended and the street has been swept.

8th street will remain open during the entire event. 16th street will remain open until 11:30 A.M.

Highway 30 will remain open but may experience delays due to pedestrian traffic and floats moving to the disband area. Traffic needing to get to or from the South slope of Astoria should use unaffected, alternate routes.

Deputy Chief Eric Halverson said, “We appreciate the community’s patience in dealing with the traffic disruptions that occur during the parade each year. Our goal is to limit the disruptions for the motoring public, while providing a safe route for people to view the procession.”

Founding Mamas & Papas

Left to Right: Randy Puseman, McLaren Innes, Stewart Bell, Josie Peper, Richard Hurley, Carol Newman, John Folk & Carol Folk

The concept which grew into our present Co-op came from the Rainbow Family Gathering in 1972. A small group of people in Astoria formed a buying club, and collectively purchased foods in bulk. Our founders raised money by having rummage sales, provided free labor, and opened the Co-op’s first storefront in 1974. It was a small 650 square foot space near the Columbian Cafe. It was called the “Community Store” and its slogan was “food for people, not for profit.”

Back then there were few grocery shopping choices in our coastal region. It was the beginning of a movement toward bulk foods to keep away from packaging. There was less emphasis on organic; the focus was on simple, whole foods. There were bulk grains and beans, spices, cheese (cut by volunteers), raw milk in glass bottles, tofu and miso.

“We had a holistic approach to life and the Co-op was in large part what enabled us to live that lifestyle in Astoria,” said Carol Folk, one of the Co-op’s first board members.

Folk remembers weekly board meetings at people’s houses with “endless discussions” about the details of the bylaws. Forming the Co-op was a painstaking process, and there were many clashes throughout its history, but it was worth it, as its value reigned even greater than the unique food offerings; it was how locals in a rural community connected.

“The food brought us together but it was a platform for sharing a common view about life and politics, our culture and our world views,” Folk said.

At first there were no distributors. Volunteers drove to Portland to pick up supplies. Everything was done by volunteers; even the store’s first manager didn’t receive a paycheck. Josie Peper was the first elected non-paid manager. She coordinated the volunteer workforce.

“The idea of hiring somebody to do carpentry or plumbing: no, we put it out there to the members to find out who could do it,” Peper said.

She held benefits to offset the store’s operating expenses including monthly square dances and potluck dinners with live music at the Netel Grange. Peper eventually took a hiatus from the Co-op to continue her education and others stepped in to run the store.

Some consequences of the Co-op relying only on volunteers started showing. The store was closed often and the shelves were randomly stocked. Throughout its history, the Co-op experimented with several management structures. The store began to function well again when the board hired its first paid manager, Stewart Bell, who earned 75-cents an hour in food credit. Bell recalls that the cost of living then was less, which made this possible.

The Co-op moved to a daily manager structure in which there was a different person each day overseeing the store. Carol Newman was one of them. She says she did it out of goodwill because she wanted to see the Co-op happen.

“Everyone got 75-cents an hour of food credit and we were so democratic until somebody brought up, some of the people shopping in the store were earning 100 bucks an hour; lawyers, doctors, teachers, business people, whatever. There was talk of exploiting ourselves,” Newman said.

Richard Hurley, a former Co-op manager helped form Community Workers Incorporated, a worker’s collective which contracted with the Co-op to operate the store and for the first time, workers started getting paid above minimum wage.

“We definitely felt we were part of a larger movement. We were lighting little candles that would get brighter and spread toward a whole different way of the economy being run. I was enamored with the economic structure hence the worker’s collective because there was always controversy over exploitation of workers,” Hurley said.

The Co-op officially became a consumer-owned cooperative, filing with the state of Oregon in 2004. Before that it was technically a non-profit, but everyone referred to it as a co-op.

When asked what their hopes are for the Co-op as it matures, some founders offer critique including the store carries too much packaged food, and it’s lost the participatory vibe that the Community Store once had. But Bell points out how the changes have been good, and there seems to be agreement among the founders.

“There is a high priority that the workers are paid well. What we got paid was a joke… having a store which can employ people and pay them a decent wage is a wonderful thing,” Bell said.

Nowadays our co-op uses a livable wage model. Starting pay is $11.50 per hour and the average wage is nearly $17 per hour plus benefits. With competitors now offering organic food, this would not be possible without a concerted effort to grow sales by broadening our shopper base and evolving to meet the needs of today’s ownership.

The opportunities our Co-op has to provide good jobs, great food for the community, and a market for local farmers and producers is thanks to our founding mamas and papas for creating and nurturing the Co-op. This article only scratches the surface as there are so many people who contributed to the Co-op’s founding in both big and little ways throughout our 43-year history. It seems more important than ever to reexamine our roots and give credit where it’s due as we plan a future expansion.

 

We’re sponsoring a movie!

Astoria Parks Foundation Parks After Dark

Join the Astoria Parks Foundation and sponsor Astoria Co-op for the kick-off of the Parks After Dark summer movie series to raise money for Astoria Parks and Recreation Scholarships.

Saturday, June 24th we will be showing the 80’s classic Top Gun.  Movie will begin at dusk at McClure Park, located at 8th and Grand Avenue. Food and beverages (including Co-op salad) available for purchase.

Community Response

We’re getting such a positive response following our big announcement! Securing a location for the new store was a big step. Since then we’ve met with Co-op owners and the people who live near our future site.

On June 8 we hosted a Co-op Conversation at Shively Hall. Co-op General Manager Matt Stanley, along with several members of our Board of Directors, shared information, answered questions, and heard suggestions.

The meeting started off with background on the project. The Co-op’s Board adopted a strategic plan three years ago which includes an expanded store. Through the planning process the Board solicited feedback and heard loud and clear the community’s desire for a bigger store offering more of what our shoppers love. Further research including a market study and consulting with our co-op grocery peers confirmed this concept viable.

The Board set criteria for a new store site. The essential elements included a space in Astoria large enough for an approximate 10,000 square foot store with plenty of space for parking and ease of access. Desires included river views, adjacent to the Riverwalk, pedestrian access, close to Columbia Memorial Hospital, and space to customize a store from the ground up.

Then came two years of searching for a site which included talking to property owners, and thoroughly investigating everything in Astoria that met our criteria. The board narrowed locations down to a handful and visited each place to get a feel for them. Finally, the Co-op signed a lease which includes construction of a new store at 23rd and Marine Drive in the Millpond development at the end of May.

Several questions and ideas came up at our Shively meeting such as who will be responsible for building the store, how big it will be, whether housing could be added above, traffic concerns, and the desire for owners to be involved. The property owner will construct an approximate 11,000 square foot building and will be conducting a traffic study with Oregon Department of Transportation to address any necessary mitigation. Housing is not being considered as there is no interest from the developer due to costs and height limitation in the area. Co-op owners can get involved by staying informed, showing support during the city land use approvals process, and helping with our capital campaign.

On June 17 we met some of our new neighbors at the Millpond homeowner’s annual meeting.

Many residents said they felt really positive about our proposal. Questions and concerns related to aesthetics, landscaping, and delivery-truck times.

Millpond was a former plywood mill that underwent transformation from polluted site to a clean, model community with senior housing, low income housing, townhouses, and single family homes. We believe the commercial property where we will build the new store will fulfill the original intent of this mixed used development and be a tremendous asset to the neighborhood and our entire coastal community.

At this time there are so many variables with planning the store and financing that we can’t say when the new store would open. It is safe to say though that we are working diligently toward this goal every day. Co-op staff members are extremely excited about the additional space, more efficient layout, and break room. It will make it that much easier to serve you even better with more healthy fresh food, local products, and plenty of space to shop, park and dine. Thanks so much to everyone in the community who has asked good questions and weighed-in with positivity. Feel free to get in touch if you have any more questions, concerns and/or ideas.

General Manager Matt Stanley can be reached at (503) 325-0027 or matt@astoria.coop.

Co-op Conversation

You’re invited to a Co-op Conversation with our general Manager Matt Stanley following our big announcement about the location of our future new store at Shively Hall on June 8 at 7 p.m.

“We’re excited to hear from you and answer any questions you might have about the project,” Stanley said.

Stanley says he will not have more specifics than what has already been shared, but for those with ideas or questions, this will be an opportunity to talk. The Co-op has received an outpouring of positive responses since we were able to share news of signing the lease.

It would be great to see you at this meeting, but if you’re not able to attend, please don’t hesitate to contact Matt or find him in the store during your next Co-op shop. Together we grow!

Matt’s contact information: matt@astoria.coop, (503)325-0027

Larger Store Here We Come: New Co-op Location Selected

By Matt Stanley, General Manager

We heard loud and clear that our community wants more space to shop and more parking. So we want you to be the first to know… it is official! Astoria Co-op Grocery has signed a long term lease which includes construction of a new grocery store at Millpond, located at 23rd Street and Marine Drive in Astoria. The plan is to build a larger version of the current store you love, with more fresh produce, meat, cheese, and deli, more parking (50 spaces), and a dedicated indoor/outdoor eating area. Our new space will include approximately 7,500 square feet of retail space (compared to our current 2,100 sq. ft.).

We aim to welcome lots of new shoppers and owners in this new location so that the Co-op can increase its positive impact on our community. Think: more sales of local products, more money to local farmers, more good jobs, and growing the cooperative economy in our region. Envision more of your friends and neighbors joining the Co-op and benefiting from our increase in selection and services. Go Co-op!

Following a strategic planning process which included an outpouring of support  for a new store, the Board and I did some serious due diligence (more than three years of searching) to find a site that would allow us to meet the community’s needs and the logistics needed for a retail grocery site. This wasn’t an easy quest, but our market research confirms that this new location will allow us to offer this increase in selection and services and maintain our financial health long into the future.

This is the former site of the Astoria Plywood Mill (a worker-owned co-op) which closed decades ago and was redeveloped into mixed income housing with a vacant commercial site where we plan to build the store. It is near the Columbia River, Riverwalk, Columbia Memorial Hospital and Astoria Aquatic Center. It is highly visible and easily accessible, with plenty of room for parking.

There will be a long road ahead with land use approvals and financing, and we’re going to need your support. We look forward to keeping our owners and shoppers in the loop as the project progresses and there will be opportunities for you to provide feedback and get involved. Stay tuned for draft drawings of what the new store will look like and the launching of a capital campaign likely in the fall. Please check out our web page for updates on expansion and don’t hesitate to contact me or find me in the store during your next Co-op shop. Together we grow!

Matt’s contact information: matt@astoria.coop, (503)325-0027

You’re invited to a Co-op Conversation with Matt following our big announcement. Bring your questions and concerns to Shively Hall in Astoria June 8 at 7:00 p.m.

Early Summertime Savings

The May-June edition of the Co+op Deals coupon book is full of savings on products that will help you enjoy summer to its fullest! Stop by the co-op to pick up your copy today, and save big on brands like Annie’s Homegrown, Clif Bar, Vita Coco and Blue Diamond. In this coupon book, you’ll find great deals on favorite brands to help you beat the heat with a cool treat, fuel up after some fun in the sun or prepare lunches for a family picnic.

Look for coupon books beginning in May. Coupons are valid through June 30, 2017.

Earth Day Every Day

Doing our part for a healthy planet is part of the way we do things every day at the Co-op. We buy organic food that isn’t grown with synthetic chemicals and local food that doesn’t have to travel far. As we grow we’re thinking of new ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Here are some of the actions we’re taking now:

Beans for Bags: Our reusable bag incentive program (started May 2015) has measured nearly 50,000 times in which shoppers have used a reusable tote. We donate the money we would have spent on paper bags to local non-profits.

• Food Waste: Nothing goes in the dumpster! We donate anything that’s still edible to the Clatsop Community Action Regional Food Bank. In a year we’ve donated more than 26,000 pounds of fresh food. Produce and deli scraps go to local farmers for compost or animal feed. Benefits include feeding hungry families and reducing waste from landfills prevents production of greenhouse gasses.

• Lighting: We switched to all LED lights. They’re up to 80% more efficient, putting less demand on power plants and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Click here to see what our friends at some other Co-ops around the country are doing to make earth day every day too!

In the Bulk Section

More and more shoppers are being enticed into the bulk aisles of their food stores—and for good reason! Buying in bulk is great for your budget (buy just the amount you need, at the best prices) and the environment, since there’s less packaging required. With the opportunity to see and smell a product outside the package before you buy, it’s a fun way to shop too.

Start by stocking up on staples: the bulk section is full of great buys for your pantry, like beans, nuts, cereals, flours, and grains. You can take advantage of the bulk section to sample small amounts of nut butters (many stores even offer the option to grind your own), pastas, and teas and coffees before committing to a large quantity.

Whatever your recipe, herbs and spices can be bought in just the amount you need for a fraction of the price of whole jars. It makes it easy and cheap to explore new cuisines that call for small amounts of herbs and spices you don’t stock in your pantry. Also look for pet food and household and toiletry items, such as laundry detergent and soaps.

Besides being more cost-effective, buying bulk allows you to experiment with new foods. Bring home just enough quinoa for one meal, for example, or enough currants to substitute for raisins in your oatmeal one morning, and then come back for more when you know it’s a winner. No section of your co-op is more fun to browse!

If you’re new to bulk buying, don’t be shy; co-op staff will be happy to help you get started with weighing and marking your items.

What are your favorite bulk buys? Join the conversation with other shoppers by commenting below, and get more tips and advice for making the best choices in the aisles of your co-op.