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Island Employee Cooperative grocery store in Maine 
 
 

NCB financing helps Maine employees become owners, keep businesses local

 

“We never imagined we could own these stores,” says Island Employees Cooperative board chairman.

 

In March 2013, after 43 years in business, the owners of Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety, and The Galley grocery store, based in Stonington and Deer Isle, Maine, decided to sell their operations but keep them locally owned.

When a viable buyer failed to materialize, the store employees organized to form a co-op in order to purchase and manage the stores.

The financing provided to the employees came from a collaborative effort by National Cooperative Bank, Associated Grocers of New England and Community Development Financial Institutions, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) and Cooperative Fund of New England.

The acquisition created not only a for-profit cooperative owned by the employees, but also Maine’s largest worker co-op and the second largest in New England, employing 60 island residents, most of whom are member/owners. To facilitate the smooth transition of converting from being owned by a single owner to worker owners , technical assistance was provided by Cooperative Development Institute, Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative and Specialized Accounting Services as technical assistance organizations.

“Many of us have worked in these stores for decades and never imagined we could own them,” said Island Employee Cooperative board chair Alan White. “It’s no small matter to keep local ownership of the stores and the benefit of creating the cooperative continues to ripple through our community. We are still learning about leadership and management, co-op governance, and financing, and when it feels tough, I think about the single mothers who work in the stores and now have a stake in the ownership, and how much they are depending on me and my fellow board members to make this work.”

This financial transaction represents the best kind of collaboration to build wealth and opportunities for residents in communities,” stated Charles Snyder, CEO of National Cooperative Bank. “This is a perfect example of NCB’s mission - working together, building community.”