Sunsets West Co-op History
It started this way ...
It all started on 2nd July, 2007.
Several weeks before, Diana said she wanted to get a few boxes of fruit and vegetables to sell to the tourists. After a few weeks of listening to her plan brewing, Terry and I decided to join in and activate the idea. We pooled our $150's, ordered the minimum order of $300, arranged delivery and set up outside of the Three Sisters' of Clallam Gallery, the green building in Clallam Bay.
The summer was cold. The wood stove burned all day most days. We put on our jackets to go out and serve by the road; we sold enough to renew our order every three weeks. It was a testing job, six days a week, but one that captured my imagination. I found myself saying we will be growing into a Co-op. At this point I had no idea and had not heard that any research had been done on this by anyone.
Then along came a fisherman, introduced by Able Guides of Sekiu; he was the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Co-op. He liked the idea and encouraged me to keep going. Then along came a family from Brooklyn Co-op, again they encouraged us, and so it started a run of public meetings, every two weeks to test the interest levels.
Folk came from all over this area, the Hoh, Forks and our own areas. The idea captured the imagination of quite a few people. Small decisions were taken, firstly to begin small and grow at our own pace, testing the waters of local interest. As the locals had not shown a great deal of interest in the fruit and vegetable stall idea during the summer, some said that we should just do a buyers' club and others that we should start as we meant to grow with a store front and buyers' club.
An offer of indoor premises was arranged and so we now felt warm.
Small was an understatement, we were tiny. $34 to $50 dollars a week in sales was common, could we do it?
A decision to start with a few dry goods and so it began, then yogurt, and bulk foods, some veggies and fruit.
A meeting with a connection to Sundara Yarn of Sequim, over a birthday dip at Sol Duc Hot Springs brought out a great idea. The new company was expanding, it was outgrowing its sole proprietor, it needed extra hands, and so the idea of sharing work with people in Clallam Bay was born. Terry and I would go to Sequim every Wednesday and pick up the consignment, get the directions and drive it back to the people who would do the work to re skein it ready for the Internet. It took a month or more to attract people interested in doing the work. Terry and I spent November and December doing the orders and taking them back to Sequim. After the holiday season people started coming out and asking about the work we were offering, and from here we gathered a team of willing workers, ending up with 10.
Because of the influx of funds we were able to rent the building that we are housed in, eventually take on the PUD account, and increase our stock. The stock is always different but some are always the same; you will need to check regularly to see what is here.
By February, a Town Planner was chosen to lead our town forward into renewal and to gain infrastructure changes and tidy up. The Co-op, now a buzzing little enterprise was chosen to move forward as the third initiative. It was voted as a Farm/Co-op, so with the support of the USDA, we entered another phase of our growth; the garden was started with only one week prior to the growing season. It was the coldest spring and so it was a challenging start for the new enterprise, but a hardy group of people held it together and formed up a home garden/Co-op produce development.
At this point the North West Co-op Development Center, was offering a grant and training to 'Grow Your Own Co-op' through the USDA. We attracted the services of a grant writer and almost immediately were granted the pre-grant that would enable us to learn and process through the right hoops to become a candidate for a full grant. This has driven us quicker than we first thought it would be possible. I have represented us at a conference in Port Townsend, researched a bank connection or two, and a hardware connection and as the ideas came forward so did the option of gaining the old grocery store in town which had been closed for four years, as with the bank.
At this point we are planning with the support of Mike Doherty the County Commissioner, John Miller County's Economic Development, Leon Smith Building Inspector, Roy Hellwig Green Architect and our grant writer Dana Sarff of Neah Bay, to develop an offer for the old grocery store. It is in poor condition in regard to its storm damage which was not fixed quickly enough, but the structure itself is good enough to work with. We have been in contact with USDA in regard to a guaranteed loan for improvements, and Forks Pharmacy, about a drop off and pick up service here, and we are re instigating the butchery. We have plans for a bakery, laundromat, public toilet and shower, a mini bank and social area with a juice bar and simple healthy food, and some hardware at a later stage.
Over the past few weeks, the First Federal Bankers came out to visit the store, the town and its Co-op. Connie Kemp, Dawnya Texor, Brian Kuh and Mary Beth Wesener enjoyed a whole day with us, talking listening and sharing the dream we have of our own mini branch of their bank.
This week Gary Deakins came out from Seattle to talk to us about a True Value Hardware here sharing the Co-op Building with food service. It was decided that we can't afford them. But he had other ideas for us to think about into the future. It was OK'd for us to subcontract with the Forks store of True Value for our needs to be met here in some ways into the future.
The Building inspector gave us a list for the architect to include in his drawings for the future Co-op.
The County are behind us getting the store up and running.
The architect sees potential for alternate power sources, and the consequent relining of the building, and restructuring of the floors and closing off of the west wing. All additions are not up to code at this point.
As things go we took a totally different path.
We are currently awaiting renovation and access to the Clallam Bay Business Center, 16795 W Hwy 112 we will be sharing the building with Thu's Salon and Unique Junque Rummage Sale and Kydaka Storage the Co-op will use the center two rooms for the Market and Eatery.
The meetings of the Co-op are held every third Tuesday of the month in the Eatery at the Co-op, 16795 Hwy 112 Clallam Bay, WA at 6pm till 8pm. All members are welcome to attend. We now have 103 members holding 66 memberships as of July 2011, and at May 2013, 135 memberships and 231 members and their dependents.
See you there!