Long-time Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op General Manager, Glenn Lower, Retires

Dear Co-op Friends,

I’m a little choked up, these days. For three decades, I’ve had a close connection to this amazing organization; first as a board member, then as produce manager, and finally as general manager. It’s been my greatest honor to work for (and with) all of you to grow the cooperative movement … a movement built on values.

I’ve had the privilege to participate in three expansions (1994, 2004, 2018). During this period sales have grown exponentially. Staff jobs have grown from about 15 to 100. Sales of local Vermont products grew to over $ 7 million / year. Membership grew from under 1,000 households to almost 6,000 households, most of them in Addison County.

Our community has so much for which to be proud. We are truly stronger together.
Someone asked recently, “what’s the main benefit of being a member of the Food Co-op?” Sure, member benefits include the Member Deals, patronage dividends, and discounts at 20 other local businesses, but I feel the greatest benefit is simply that the Co-op exists – that we have a vibrant community-owned natural foods store here in the center of Addison County. It’s very easy to take this for granted. In the last decades, there have been dozens of co-ops across the country that have gone out of business. I believe this might have happened because the stores didn’t evolve to meet the growing needs of the community. Over the decades I’ve seen several conventional grocery stores disappear from Middlebury. Do some of you remember when we had an IGA, Grand Union, and A&P. And even Greg’s Market closed, then fortunately reopened with new owners. These all serves as reminders that our existence is not a given.

Many other co-ops have struggled to find qualified people to manage the store. We were so lucky five years ago when Greg came to our co-op to serve as our first-ever Store Operations Manager. Greg has proven to be an excellent manager and cooperative leader over the years. When he takes over as GM, I’m confident the Co-op is in good hands. At the same time, he’s going to need your help. We all have a role to play. This is OUR store. We own it. It’s our job to make sure that we are active participants. We communicate what we need. We support the staff. We give feedback if the organization is going in the right direction or the wrong direction. We vote for the board and any other questions that are put up for member vote. And we vote with our feet (where do we shop?) And our wallets (what do we buy?).

I’ve said on occasion, that I think we have the best staff in the country… OK, that’s just the way I feel. Our store’s staff is incredibly dedicated both to the community and to the values ​​behind the work that we do. I love watching these amazing people doing good work. This past month I’ve been meeting with staff in small groups discussing how to create a place where everyone feels welcome. For a couple of years, we have considered this part of our work on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We are working against many decades of harm to underrepresented groups or groups that lack privilege or power, and thus don’t feel welcome in many other places. This work is hard to grasp, and often involves unlearning things that contribute to our unconscious biases. We are here to be allies and create a safe, welcoming space for all. This is a journey for staff (and our community) that we expect to continue into the foreseeable future. We invite you to join us.

April Fool’s Day is my first day off without responsibility (irony intended). This letter is my “goodbye” to all of you. I’ll be shopping in the aisles where I should have more time than ever before to talk with you. Thank you for all your support over the years. It’s meant so much.

Wishing you all lots of love.

There are just no words to express our gratitude for the magnitude of service that Glenn Lower has contributed to our Co-op over the past 30 years. From his early days as a member-worker, sweeping floors after closing, to his service on our Board of Directors, his tenure as our Produce Manager, and now decades serving as our General Manager, Glenn has given his very best, every day. He has shepherded our little Co-op with kindness, humility, and a vision that has helped us realize a successful community-owned business that is driven by values. With Glenn’s leadership, our Co-op has become a very important part of a healthy food system and a vibrant local economy. We wish him every happiness in his retirement – it is well-earned!

With Gratitude from the Co-op Board, Management Team, and Staff

VTDigger press releases are provided by submitting organizations and may include mention of VTDigger staff, family and trustees.

Use our self-service Press Release Portal to promote it on VTDigger and reach our entire web and email readership.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.