When you buy a sandwich you expect it to be good, but depending on where you bought it, your expectations may vary. A vending machine? Ugh. One of the sandwich-making juggernauts? Should be palatable. A sandwich from the co-op? Now we’re talking. It should be good. And not only that, it should be good for a lot of reasons—because the person who made it cares about quality food, the bread came from a local bakery, the cashier who rang you up it smiled and thanked you for your patronage. When you eat that sandwich you satisfy more than your hunger. You know all of those people throughout the value chain of creating the co-op’s sandwich are benefiting by their part in making it, including you.
But what if you buy a co-op sandwich and don’t know any of that behind-the-scenes stuff, only that it tastes good? That’s fine, too. But for the cooperators I know, that’s not good enough. It matters that people know what all goes into a fine sandwich. A co-op sandwich is made with relationships that bind people together over common aspirations for a better way of doing business.
For so many years food co-ops had to fight off an enduring negative image of cramped, dirty and insular enterprises. Today our co-ops are recognized for their retail excellence, and communities appreciate the quality and care that goes into their operations. Everyone wants a food co-op in their town nowadays. Our hard work has paid off: everybody loves the sandwiches. Now we just need to tell them more about everything they get when they buy one.