Q: What is a Co-op?
A: A member-owned and member-controlled business that operates for the mutual benefit of all members. Examples include your local food co-op, a housing co-op, and a credit union. The cooperative form of business is one that brings the owners, controllers, and users of a business together into one group.
Q: Do I have to be an owner/member to shop here?
A: No! Whether you are a member-owner or not, you can expect the same exceptional customer service, quality products and enjoyable shopping experience. But membership provides certain benefits for you and strengthens the Androscoggin Food Co-op.
Q: If anyone can shop at the store, why should I pay to become an owner?
A: Without member-owners, a co-op cannot exist. A food co-op is more than just a grocery store, it’s a community of people who care about good food, good jobs for store employees, and support for local food producers. Those member-owners are also the source for initial funding, which can then be leveraged to raise all the capital needed to open. If no one invests in the co-op, this model does not work.
Q: How do I become a member?
A: A one-time investment of $200 makes you a member-owner; after all this is your food co-op. There is no annual fee. You can become a member-owner by visiting https://androfood.coop and clicking on the “Become a Member Today” button. Transactions are secure, and we offer easy payment options.
Q: Do I get a member-owner card?
A: Temporary cards with your membership number will be sent to member-owners until the store opens when permanent cards will be issued.
Q: What will my investment be used for?
A: Opening the co-op! Member-owner investments fulfill the capital needs of the business and bring us closer to opening the grocery store. Your money will help us to pay for legal fees, marketing material, consulting services, permitting costs, equipment purchases, and the many other costs that come with opening a business.
Q: The website says that while my membership investment is potentially refundable, it is at the discretion of the Board of Directors. Should I be concerned?
A: We’re very protective of our member-owners’ investments, and dedicated to minimizing the risk. For example during the early days of the membership drive, which is where we’re at right now, the board has restricted its use of members’ contributions to 25%, so no more than $50 of a membership would be potentially at risk. But certainly, if investing at this early stage makes you uncomfortable, stay with us, follow our progress, and become a member-owner when that feels right to you.
Q: How is a co-op grocery store different from regular grocery stores?
A: A co-op grocery store is owned and operated by the people that shop there, and exists to serve its members and the community, not make a profit for private investors. Co-ops are generally able to operate while following strong ethics and values. Plus, food co-ops connect with small, local farms that are unable to sell products at a larger grocery store!
Q: Will the food be affordable?
A: Most grocery co-ops put a priority on paying a fair price to their suppliers and a living wage to their employees, while also making prices as affordable as possible. Our owners will have a say in how we balance fairness and affordability.
Q: What do you mean by “Local?”
A: For us, it means that we will emphasize food raised on farms or produced within a 400-mile radius, as much as possible.
Q: Where will the Co-op be located?
A: We have not selected a location yet. We will evaluate locations in the Berlin/Gorham area after a professional market study is completed. Our ideal location would be in an under-served location, have public transit and bike access, and plentiful parking.
Q: Who is involved?
A: We are your friends and neighbors, folks who live in the Androscoggin Valley who have come together to explore the possibility of opening a community-owned food co-op grocery store.
Q: Is there a market for it/will it be successful?
A: We’ve done our homework! Both a preliminary market study by co-op experts and a feasibility assessment have concluded there is room in the local economy for a co-op grocery store.
Q: When will the Co-op open?
A: That depends on YOU! Much of the timeline depends on people in the community joining the co-op. Join today and start recruiting your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers! The faster we grow our Membership, the sooner we will be able to open the store.
Q: How can I get involved?
A: Join the co-op. Volunteer on a committee. Run for a seat on the Board. Promote the co-op at local events. Tell everyone you know about the co-op! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What if I have another question?
A: Send it to email@example.com.