Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of Ithaca Week, a weekly magazine produced by the students of the Advanced Multimedia Journalism class at the Roy H. Park School of Communications, Ithaca College.
Ithaca, N.Y. — GreenStar will open its third store in Ithaca on College Ave. in 2016 as part of a new development, reflecting the rise of cooperative businesses across the country.
In the last three years, the number of co-op businesses in the U.S. has grown by a third.
Weavers Way Co-op of Philadelphia, which serves 5,200 households, has seen a 12 percent growth in sales in the last year, General Manager Glenn Bergman said.
GreenStar and Weavers Way Co-ops are both part of national group of cooperatives called the National Cooperative Grocers Association.
“We share information with other co-ops, and we also work together, and we go to meetings together, and we purchase together to get better pricing,” Bergman said.
Association members share more than just tips and suppliers — they also share values that have proven successful for the cooperative business model.
“I like the fact that the profits go back to the community, the members, or [the] staff,” Bergman said, noting that the co-op also provides health insurance, vacation time and sick time to employees, as well as nonprofit support to the local community.
Joe Romano, marketing manager for GreenStar, said the community-oriented nature of the co-op has been key in GreenStar’s success, ultimately leading to its expansion into catering, a public gathering space, a nonprofit, and now its Collegetown store.
In a community of more than 30,000, GreenStar boasts nearly 10,000 members.
“That tells me very clearly that we’re meeting the needs of the community, which is obvious because the community started the business to meet their needs,” Romano said.
Romano moved to Ithaca and started working in an entry-level receiving position at GreenStar 15 years ago. He said he didn’t care what he was doing — he just wanted to work at the co-op. Today, he said he couldn’t be more proud of his role to better the Ithaca community.
“It’s important because it is part of the community of Ithaca. It’s owned by the community,” Romano said. “There’s no Mr. GreenStar that’s going to get a yacht at the end of the year. If we do well, the community does well.”