Dandelion Market getting back to roots
Despite warnings that the Carbondale Community Food Co-op was a sinking ship financially just a few months ago, the new general manager said her team has been able to turn their luck around.
The food co-op, newly re-branded as Dandelion Market, has actually increased wages for its employees and decreased the markup on its products from 50 percent to 35 percent.
The co-op also started partnering with other local businesses, like Señor Taco Show, Bonfire Coffee and Village Smithy, to be their organic food supplier.
The result of the lower prices and drawing in local businesses has translated to a flood of new movement of product through the store, said Katrina Byars, a Carbondale town trustee and the co-op’s new general manager.
“We have more motion through the store at all levels.”
These steps, along with cutting some unnecessary expenses and services, have pulled the store back into the black and allowed it to settle up on its local accounts.
Dandelion Market now has no more outstanding balances, she said.
The co-op also is expanding its partnerships with local farmers, now getting new deliveries from local producers nearly seven days a week, she said.
The co-op recently brought in 10 new local food companies, whereas they were previously getting the bulk of their produce from a couple of companies based out of Denver, said Byars.
The co-op also is reviving some old traditions, like free drip coffee in the mornings for customers. And a commercial kitchen in the building is going to be back up and running to serve farm fresh salads.
Sales also have greatly benefitted by the co-op synching up with local events, such as First Friday.
Last week, during the July First Friday, the co-op had live music, local food sampling, a book signing by a local author and live painting — all of which drew in enough customers to boost sales by about $1,000.
Byars has been a member of the food co-op since its inception, when it was just a food buyers club being run out of a living room.
That long history with the co-op has been important in guiding it back toward its roots, she said.
Just a couple of months ago the co-op board brought in a new manger to bring the store out of the red, where it had been for years.
The co-op was in crisis mode, said Byars, but it didn’t need to be. The store doesn’t have to operate on a profit-based model. Rather, it can thrive as a “social-entrepreneurial” business.
As Byars said, it’s about getting back to the co-op’s roots as a local food and community hub.
The food co-op has considered changes to its membership fee structure. Membership currently runs $200 for individuals or $250 for families, and in either case members can use a payment plan.
Potential changes to the membership fee structure will be discussed at an upcoming board meeting.
Byars said she’ll recommend an additional 5-percent discount at the register for members if an annual fee is added. The co-op currently boasts about 600 members.
Beyond simply surviving as a local food store, Byars has some other lofty goals for Dandelion Market, such as working to become a “zero waste” facility and to start accepting electronic benefit transfer cards, a system that allows people to use their government benefits to pay for goods, soon.
“The idea is really about investing in the world we want to see,” she said.
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