BY ADAM ATKINSON North Country This Week POTSDAM — With the recent departure of the general manager and a planned expansion on hold, the board of the Potsdam Food Co-Op recently announced to its …
BY ADAM ATKINSON
North Country This Week
POTSDAM — With the recent departure of the general manager and a planned expansion on hold, the board of the Potsdam Food Co-Op recently announced to its membership this month that it is facing “dire” financial difficulties.
“The past two weeks were filled with significant changes and we are currently in a period of major transition for the Co-op,” the board wrote to its membership in an emailed message last week.
General Manager Andy Peet announced to the membership on Feb. 24 he would be stepping down from the position. His last day as GM was Friday, March 3.
Jessie LaRose has accepted the position of interim general manager. LaRose has close to 15 years of experience working at the Potsdam Food Co-op, a message from the Co-Op board to its membership said. “She has worked in nearly every role possible and as the former Lead Buyer, she has established strong relationships with suppliers that will be valuable for maintaining stability at this time. We are fortunate to have her enthusiasm and expertise,” the board said.
The Co-Op’s Governance and General Manager (GM) Search Committees have begun work on writing up the GM job description and an advertisement for the position, the board reported this week.
“This is a difficult decision to make,” Peet said in his announcement. “The Co-op is such a huge part of my life, and has been my second home and my family for the past 15 years. But I think this is best for me and the Co-op. The Co-op needs a passionate, enthusiastic, and inspiring leader now more so than ever. I no longer feel I'm the right person for that role.”
In their earlier message to the membership, the board praised Peet for his service.
“We would like to take a moment to thank Andy for his dedication and commitment to the Co-op since he started working here 15 years ago. He bravely took on the GM role only a month prior to the start of COVID and has had to navigate through supply and staff shortages, changes in shopper habits and needs, and managing the rising cost of goods. We wish Andy the best of luck in all his future endeavors,” the board said.
Financially, the Co-op is in a tight bind and the board announced in early February that the current status of the store is “dire.”
“It is important that members understand the financial crisis we are facing. The Co-op owes money to vendors and suppliers. Inventory needs to be resupplied. The Co-op has a minimal amount remaining in savings. The Co-op has been operating at a loss for the past two years,” the board said.
The Co-op board has appointed a Crisis Management Committee to address the financial difficulties it now faces.
“The CMC was formed to actively manage the rapidly unfolding situation, support Co-op leadership in managing the transition, and make recommendations to both staff and board in order to achieve the necessary business goals within 30 days,” the board said.
To get things turned around in the short-term, the CMC and LaRose will follow a 30-day transition plan laid out by Arden Haynes who was recently appointed as transition manager before resigning due to personal reasons soon after.
“Without drastic changes to the financial situation, the Co-op will not be able to survive. Cutting some employee hours and restructuring the staffing and management system has already begun. As a reminder, the ‘Round-Up for Renovation’ funds that many of us have been contributing to at the register, are currently being set aside from the day-to-day operating funds,” the board told membership.
In addition to the other personnel and financial issues, production of the Co-Op’s popular wood-fired brick oven baked goods have been suspended after the oven was shut down due to needed repairs.
Bread will continue to be baked in the electric oven of the Carriage House, the board told membership.