General Manager’s Report
By Larrane Hartridge
Many of you have stopped to ask me about Earth Fare, which will be opening down the Parkway this December. My answer always starts with, “We’ve known competition was looking and it was just a matter of time before it arrived.” Competition is a good thing and more people will benefit from further education about eating healthy. In a recent e-newsletter, Board President Joshua Youngblood summed it up very nicely in an article about “localism.” Some of you may have already read this, but I feel that it is well written and pretty much sums up how we all feel here at New Leaf Market.
Localism is not only where the products that people use come from, or what products are the most sustainable, but it is also who sells the products people buy. When members of a community take their money to a corporate store—even one selling natural, organic, and local products—that money ultimately leaves the community. When those same consumers take their money to a cooperatively owned business in their community, that money goes right back to the people and institutions that make up their community.
All businesses have to make profit. At the end of the day, a corporation is not going to go far enough for the communities they do business in because the profits of its shareholders or private owners will always trump the needs of those communities. The Co-op is the community. And of course, New Leaf Market is not the only co-op in town. We share an interest with Bread & Roses, the seven credit unions, and every other cooperative enterprise—and every locally owned business for that matter—in the area that people understand what local really means.
New Leaf Market is by most measures a very successful consumer co-op. As values-driven organizations that must adhere to outward-looking principles, co-ops have tended to grow in times of social and economic change. Similarly, around the world and here in the United States, co-ops have historically been embraced when economic realities made it very clear that private interests and corporations were not going to provide what members of communities saw as essential goods and services.
But co-ops are not only useful in impoverished areas of the world with inadequate access to basic necessities, or in the United States, areas that otherwise would not have access to natural products. And they do not cease being values-driven and community-enriching once they become successful or begin to grow. For a co-op, the more successful it is, the more resources, services, and yes, profits that go into the community. New Leaf Market faces new competition in part because of how successful we have been. We as an institution must communicate to the community we serve all of the ways the Co-op already makes Tallahassee better and stronger and demonstrate how we will do even more things for the Tallahassee area in the future as we continue to place values and community before everything else.
With that said, I have chosen to embrace the upcoming competition with open arms. Not only will it provide New Leaf Market an opportunity to strengthen our store and the community it serves, but it also allows for distribution avenues to increase and natural foods to become more accessible. Our success has proven to attract attention and we strive to continue focusing our efforts regardless of the arrival of Earth Fare, or any other form of competition. Why? Because it is our passion and we love it!