The Willimantic Food Co-op began as the Willimantic Buyers Club in the early 70’s. Members met in the basement of St. Paul’s church to order food in bulk and divide it between themselves at significant savings. In 1980 the Willimantic Buyers Club merged with the buying club from Storrs and opened a retail store on Main Street. The Co-op outgrew that space, and moved to Meadow Street in 1991, then moved again in 2005 to Valley Street.
Since its inception, the Co-op has been guided by the Rochedale Principles and governed under the principle of one member, one vote. Members elect a Board of Directors to carry out the goals of the Co-op between annual all members meetings. On a daily basis the store is operated and managed by a paid staff with the help of volunteer workers.
The Co-op Movement
The Rochedale Equitable Pioneer Society was formed by the weavers of Rochedale, England in 1844. The guidelines they set for fair governing and business practices in their society have since become the backbone of the Co-op movement.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operatives members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
7 Co-operative Principles
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training and information
- Co-operation among co-operatives
- Concern for community
In 2000, the Board of Directors decided that the Willimantic Food Co-op was ready to move into the new century governed by a clear set of written policies. Those policies would inform the board and the manager about the jobs of each and set up the mechanisms to distinguish the board’s job from the manager’s. These policies would also give guidance for the board and the manager to support each other and lay out their relationships to co-op members. Policy Governance, a model developed by John Carver, is easily adaptable and used by many cooperatives across the country. In May 2001, the Willimantic Food Co-op adopted Policy Governance and now works from a dynamic policy manual, adapted to its particular needs and subject to revision as those needs evolve.