NISKAYUNA – Members of the Niskayuna cooperative food market are expected to vote tonight on a change to the cooperative’s bylaws which, if approved, will adjust the cash values for shares purchased by new members.
The vote will take place at a meeting of cooperative members initially scheduled for early December – a session postponed following the month’s record snowstorm.
Tuesday’s meeting will be held at Edwin D. Reilly Jr. Niskayuna Town Hall and will begin at 6:30 pm.
“Our board voted to set a new share price starting next month at $ 25 for new members only, so the difference is when you make that $ 25 membership, when you buy your share from $ 25, then the cash value would become a dime, ”said Sarah E. Bilofsky, who, along with Sunny Lee, is co-chair of the volunteer council.
“This is what we are voting on,” Bilofsky said.
A share of the co-op currently costs $ 5, a figure according to Bilofsky has been in place since the market opened in 1943. People who bought those earlier shares will still be able to buy them back for $ 5, if they choose.
“Current members and stocks will not be affected by this change,” read a recent letter to co-op members. “Shares purchased before February 1, 2020 will retain a par value and a redemption value of $ 5.”
“By changing the cash value to a penny… you buy a stock and that money stays in the co-op,” Bilofsky said. “Right now, we need to make sure we have the funds to return all of these shares if people choose to buy them back.”
The share price of $ 25, Bilofsky said, will be part of the funds used to keep the store going. The current share of $ 5, she added, would equate to $ 74 in cash for 2020.
“This is a pretty modest increase and we know from the homework the board has done across the country that most co-ops cost at least $ 100, or even $ 200,” he said. Bilofsky said. “And some charge that every year to be a member.”
When people buy shares in the cooperative, she also said, they are investing in their community and signaling their intention to be part of the store.
People who are currently invested in the store can still purchase additional shares.
“We certainly encourage people to do it; if they like the store and want to see the store continue to thrive, ”Bilofsky said. “Maybe they’ve been a member for 20 years. We have people who are third generation members of the cooperative family.
The meeting will also include a discussion on “the state of the co-op”, store finances and the report from interim general manager Dennis Hanley, who recently took office at the co-op.
Bilofsky said the board believes the proposed bylaw change is an important step as the co-op competes in a market that has changed a lot over the years.
“There was no Amazon delivery, there was no HelloFresh bringing meals to your door,” she said. “There were no Trader Joe’s here. The way we shop and the way we think about food and the way we think about preparing meals has changed.
“The co-op is strong, but we’ve looked at the numbers and sales are not where they should be,” Bilofsky said. “Our costs continue to rise and our sales are not keeping pace.”
Some things have changed. Bilofsky said Hanley brings 40 years of grocery business experience to Niskayuna. A recent addition is the small cafe – tables and chairs – now open near the baked goods aisles.
Bilofsky said he heard complaints that the co-op is taking a more “corporate” approach.
“I don’t understand that,” she said, adding that the co-op is governed by a board of directors elected by the members. “We are watching the store,” she said.
“Everyone around this board table loves the store and wants it to thrive,” Bilofsky said. “We want the store to thrive for the next generation, but we operate in a different environment and I think the benefit of bringing a fresh look – whether you’re in healthcare, foodservice or grocery stores – everything the world can do things better.
“Let’s take a look at what we’re doing well and see the opportunities for us to be even stronger. “
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or [email protected]
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