Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is a cooperative?
A cooperative is a not for profit, not for charity business entity that seeks to meet the
needs of its membership. For our cooperative, that need has been defined as a full-service grocery store that prioritizes great food and local producers while caring for our environmental and social impacts. Our purpose can further be found in our Ends and Mission Statements.
Because we are member-owned by our local community, we are able to make decisions locally and democratically. Because of this, generally, co-ops are able to prioritize treating employees well, working more closely with local food producers, and keep more of our dollars in our community.
What exactly is an equity payment?
Equity is the amount of Main Market Cooperative that you own. Our membership equity or voting stock is set at a common amount ($180) for all so that all members have an equal share and voice in ownership, as we say “one member, one vote”. It’s imperative in cooperatives that all our owners have equal influence in our business. This is a very different philosophy than in stock controlled companies where those with the most money have the most say.
In order to ensure that our entire community has the opportunity to participate as
owners, we have a payment system of $10 per year for those needing to spread their
equity investment over a more financially sustainable period of time. We always
encourage all members financially able to pay their equity in a shorter time period. On a payment plan, members will be prompted once per year for a $10 payment until $180 equity is met. But ANY member can make extra equity payments ANY time. We have an electronic record for each member’s contribution to equity that records any payments on equity you’ve made and can provide that to owners at your request.
What is a dividend?
The legal framework of cooperatives allows us to be owned by our members whose
patronage (the money you spend shopping at your co-op) can be re-allocated as
dividends in profitable years. Dividends are returning some of the profit our co-op
makes from your purchases back to you – find a grocery store anywhere that does that!
When will I get a dividend?
Disbursing dividends is another quirky detail regulated by state law and the IRS. We must consider our cumulative profitability since opening our store before giving out any dividends (also known as retained earnings). That means we have to make enoughmoney to pay for all of our opening costs and the first few years of operating at a loss
before we can give dividends to members.
Even though we’ve had our first couple of years of profitability, we have some historical profitability to “make up for” before dividends for members become a reality. We hope within the next 3 years to have become profitable enough to pay back our startup costs.
Can my household all be under one membership? Or can my spouse and I have both our names on our membership?
Unfortunately, by law, there can only be ONE name associated with membership. This
is a legal requirement for ownership and for our voting process. Only one member-owner can hold the membership, vote, or be issued a check for dividends, etc.
However, multiple people in your household can participate in other membership
benefits such as business partner discounts or member coupons. We provide 3 key-fobs per membership that can be given to others in your household. And of course, multiple members in a household can become owners of the co-op!
What happens if I move away or don’t want to be a member anymore?
You can offer your membership back to the Co-op as a permanent investment. If you
prefer to get your investment back, MMC will purchase the investment from you as long as it does not hurt the financial integrity of the Co-op. If you choose to take either course of action, please contact [email protected]
Can equity requirements ever be increased?
Technically, yes, but it is not very common. The board of the co-op could decide that the cooperative needs additional capital to open another location, for example. Increasing the equity requirement would be one way to raise money, but is a risky way to go about raising that money.
Most co-ops elect instead to either do a Member Loan drive (taking out mini-loans with owners directly) or Preferred Loan drives (non-voting equity that has higher rates of dividend returns associated with it) when the co-op needs to grow.
What are my responsibilities as a member?
It is very important to realize that membership is not just a club or a discount card – you have literally become an OWNER of this business. The most important responsibility you have is to shop here as much as you can! Not only does that impact your potential dividends, but provides the financial ability to grow and better meet your needs for a grocery store.
It’s also very important that you keep us notified of any changes to your contact
information. That way we can ensure you’re getting important business-related updates, dividend checks, member-only coupons, and voting notices.*
Voting for the board of directors is another vital responsibility. Our board is the
governing body of the co-op and the collective VOICE of the membership. Voting and
our board is a cornerstone of being a democratically, locally run cooperative.
*WE NEVER SELL, SHARE OR OTHERWISE IMPRUDENTLY HANDLE ANY OF YOUR
How can I be even more involved?
1. Show up for fun events (and just have fun)! We try to have community-oriented
events every couple of months…a movie about food, a workshop about medicinal
mushrooms, a harvest festival with music…join us and help us grow our co-op
2. Come to the annual meeting! Every April we have an annual meeting with free drinks and food. This is where our annual report is given by the general manager and board of directors as well as future plans announced. A great time to learn about how your co-op functions and performs.
3. Pick up our quarterly newsletter! Available at the registers and on our website, our
newsletters have lots of information about what we’re doing as an organization, our
many community partners and food producers, and a calendar of events.
4. Come to our quarterly open meetings. Our board of directors meets monthly to
monitor co-op business but welcomes the public quarterly to participate in co-op
governance (see newsletter/website for dates).
5. Consider running for a seat on the Board of Directors. Ballots are distributed in
March every year and new candidates are announced at the annual meeting. The
board recruits new members year-round, however, so send us an email if you’re
interested! [email protected]
6. Volunteer! Our co-op has no volunteering requirements to be a member, but many
still seek this time-honored tradition of the cooperative movement. Send us an email
at [email protected] if you’re interested. We love having help planning
events, passing out information at community going-on, and finding creative ways to
lend a hand at local farms. We’ve even had members write articles for our