The history of Abundance Food Co-op is one full of change and adaptation. In the decades since its establishment as a true cooperative market, we have seen the transformation of our community, our local food economy, and the larger grocery ecosystem we rely on for healthy, sustainably sourced foods. There is no doubt, our community of Shareholders and shoppers, food growers and food makers, place unique value in the co-op and the role it plays in our individual lives.
Ensuring the co-op is here for another 20 years and longer, requires leadership and vision to see and appreciate not only who we are today, but the magic of what we can be in the future. When the Board of Directors began their search for our next General Manager they were committed to finding someone who could do just that. As the Board began sifting through resumes and meeting with applicants Max Gianniny, Board President, knew it was important to find the right person with the right levels of experience in both cooperatives and business.
When the right candidate did not emerge, the Board investigated a new approach. They began working with Columintate* to identify a professional Interim General Manager (IGM). Max reflected on this, saying, “Abundance has been brimming with potential. While we have grown considerably in the last five years, there is still a lot to do. It became clear that we needed someone with a lot of energy and grocery experience to give the store the boost it needs.”
With this new approach, Brandon Kane, long-time General Manager at Ithaca’s GreenStar Co-op, quickly became the frontrunner and has now been working closely with Max, Monique Marollo and co-op staff for the last four weeks.
Brandon first became involved in cooperatives through the west Philadelphia music scene in the 1990s. He quickly fell in love with the structure and found himself engaged in grocery and housing co-ops as well. “I saw that transparency, service, and the ability to retain community wealth were built into the structure. I saw that cooperatives embodied hope and was inspired by it,” says Brandon.
Brandon was the General Manager at GreenStar for just over 10 years. In that time the store saw explosive growth for a relatively small community. It grew from $10M to $26M in sales and included over 12K Shareholders. A part of that success was the transition from being a niche health food store to servicing the whole community while maintaining its connection to the local food system.
In his short time with Abundance Food Co-op, Brandon has already taken on a number of projects to help increase sales, align the store’s product selection to meet the community needs, and increase the number of customers and Shareholders.
At this time, Brandon is with the co-op on a three-month contract with the option to extend. Reflecting on the value Brandon has already brought, Max says, “It is my hope Brandon will inspire the Board and staff to dream bigger for the store and give us the tools we need to stay on that trajectory so we can become a grocery brand recognized all over the city.”
If you are interested in learning more about what’s happening at the co-op and the initiatives Brandon is focused on, consider joining the monthly Board meetings. They are held every second Tuesday from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM. Zoom details can be found on the Abundance website.
*Columinate is a consulting firm that works with cooperative organizations nationwide, to help them grow and thrive.