FAQ BriarPatch Co-op Next Steps

CRabb-paradeAs many of you know, BriarPatch has been looking at options for our future. Should we expand, get a second store, move? Here are the Board of Directors’ answers to our most frequently asked questions:

1. Why are you looking into growth?
We’ve been fantastically successful in our current location and we need to deal with some of the issues that our success has brought us.
We need to address issues like parking, more shelf space, and a bigger deli and make sure that people’s shopping experience is as good as it can be.
We also believe that our business model, returning “profits” to our owners and our community, is a good one that merits expansion when the demand exists.

2. Is BriarPatch going to move?
We’re looking at all options right now. We’ve nearly outgrown the current building, but that doesn’t mean we have to move. The three alternatives we’re considering are: (a) remodeling the current building, (b) opening a small, satellite store; or (c) relocating (or some combination of these three.)

3. When are you going to tell us what the decision is? How can I provide input?
We take our owners’ views very seriously and will continue to keep owners informed as we proceed. We’ve already shared information in the bi-monthly Vine newsletter, and we intend to continue to use this publication as our main communication outlet, which is also posted on our website. We also plan to hold smaller meetings and a community forum to get owners’ input as we reach key decision points.

4. How can we afford this? How much is it going to cost?
Whatever we decide to do, we will maintain the profitability of BriarPatch operations. Our management and our Board of Directors are dedicated to a thorough, well-informed decision-making process. Any decision we make will be supported by solid financial analysis.
Each of the options we’re considering will differ greatly in scale and cost. The Board of Directors and management will be very careful not to overextend BriarPatch financially. Fortunately, we have financial experts available to help provide and analyze financial information in order to make an informed decision.

5. Who’s in charge of this process?
Chris Maher, our General Manager, is leading our Development Team. The Development Team meets frequently and is working with the Board of Directors, senior Co-op management, and a team of experts to find the best way to move forward. The Development Team will make one or more recommendations to the Board of Directors and the Board will make the final decision about how we move forward.

6. Will the store have to be closed during improvements?
We don’t expect to close the store for any length of time during any future renovations or expansion. Whatever option is finally chosen, we’ll be making sure that there is minimal disruption for our customers. We don’t anticipate any sort of significant construction for at least two years.

7. How are you considering the environmental impact of expansion or relocation?
One of BriarPatch’s goals is to “contribute to environmental stewardship through our business practices,” so considering all the environmental implications of our next steps is extremely important to us. Environmental impact will be an important factor in coming to a decision about growth.

8. How will you decide which option to choose?
The Development Team, headed by the General Manager, will make preliminary recommendations to the Board. These recommendations will also be presented to owners for input. The Development Team will consider all input, develop a second round of recommendations and present these to the Board and owners again.


When Michael Pollan came to Town

The Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Auditorium was packed with people eagerly awaiting their Evening with Michael Pollan. The low hum of hundreds excitedly chatting permeated the space, words like “food” and “cooking” occasionally presenting themselves to the ear like auditory snacks.

On stage sat a homey tableau – two chairs on a comfy rug, a large stump playing the part of a table for a pair of water glasses.

Michael Funk introduced Beth Ruyack, the evening’s moderator, and Michael Pollan, each emerging from the folds of the theatre curtain onto the stage. They took their seats, sat back, and the discussion began.
Pollan talked about his epiphany, driving down I-5 to Fresno and being hit with the stench of the giant feed lot that’s on the way. He saw head upon head of black cows, standing close together, feet sunk in mud and their excrement. It made him realize that he didn’t really know where his food was coming from.

And then he had a second epiphany while working on a story about a potato farm in Idaho. The farmer sprayed his fields while protected inside a bunker, the neurotoxins coating his fields too deadly to be exposed to. The potatoes had to off-gas for six weeks after harvest before they were suitable for consumption. Meanwhile, the farmer had a small, organic plot of potatoes right next to his house for his and his family’s meals.

From discussing epiphanies, Ruyak steered the conversations to the books that had grown from those first seeds of realization – in 2001, “The Botany of Desire,” in 2006, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” 2008 brought “In Defense of Food,” 2009, “Food Rules,” and finally this year gave us “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.”

Pollan wove in knowledge gleaned from his most recent undertaking into many of the discussions that filled the evening, including the theory that cooking allowed for our bigger brains, how much he enjoyed writing the book, and how important cooking is to our humanness.

“Cooking is a powerful way to reengage with nature … to connect with people … we’ve lost a lot as cooking has declined,” he said.

As food politics were covered and audience members were welcomed to pose their own questions, Pollan maintained a gracious manner, answering with sincerity and thoughtfulness. He engaged with each questioner a level of both professionalism and approachability that spoke to his years of journalism and teaching.

For almost two hours, the auditorium was filled of laughter from witticisms, gasps of surprise when a food policy or process was brought up for many attendees’ first time, outrage at how industrial farming has disconnected us from the source of our food, and inspiration when Pollan showed that change was attainable. “An Evening with Michael Pollan” was one heck of a night, and one that the attendees will long remember. When the house lights came up and Ruyak and Pollan exited the stage, the excited hum from the crowd was as permeable as ever.