For decades, Natural Foods Co-ops have been promoting and providing access to healthy foods, organic produce, raw and unprocessed goods and health and wellness through herbs and supplements. While our goals and values haven’t changed, the idea of what it means to shop, join or be involved at a co-op has adapted to the evolving food landscape. While natural foods and wellness are more popular than ever, there are still a lot of questions and misconceptions about the modern food co-op.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding co-ops in general, and Valley Natural Foods in particular.
Do I have to be a member or owner to shop at Valley?
No! Everyone is welcome to shop at our store. We offer sales, coupons and specials every day to anyone who wants to shop with us, and we are happy to answer any questions or provide you with great customer service whether you are an owner or not.
Co-ops are all about vegetarians/vegans/granola, right?
The idea of a co-op as a “hippie hangout” couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure, you will find hippies, vegetarians and granola lovers, but you’ll also find families and singles, millennials and seniors, vegans and meat eaters, sugar-free shoppers and those who love sweet treats, and people with specialty diets of every kind due to lifestyle choice or medical need. Bottom line – no matter your natural food needs, everyone is welcome to shop with us!
If I become an owner, do I have to pay a yearly/monthly fee?
While there is a $100 investment to become an owner, it is a one-time cost – once you own the shares, you own them for as long as you want them.
And if you decide ownership is not right for you, your $100 investment is refundable at any time.
We’ve even made it easier to become an owner by signing up online through our website!
What is the difference between membership and ownership? I used to be called a member, now some people call me an owner – it’s kind of confusing.
The easy answer is: there’s no difference. We used to call people who joined our co-op “members”, but the truth is, when you invest in our co-op, you own shares, you have a vote, and you essentially become an equal part-owner in Valley Natural Foods. Because of that, we made the change from “membership” to “ownership.”
As for membership and ownership being interchangeable and confusing – we understand. Many of our long-time employees still say “member” out of habit. Just know that whether you consider yourself a member or an owner, your role is the same, your benefit is the same, and you’re helping us achieve the same mission of a healthy community.
If everyone can shop at Valley, why become an owner?
Of course, we love it when people become owners because they support the work we do to promote our values and our mission. However, we know that the decision to become an owner sometimes begins with the discount – and that’s okay too. But ownership comes with many more benefits than savings at the register:
- Owners get a 5% discount once a month, redeemable on the day you choose. However, owners also get bonus discounts throughout the year that can be stacked for even more savings!
- Owners have access to special “owner deals”. Look for the burgundy tags throughout the store for an additional 10-20% off our already low prices.
- We share our success with our owners! Upon board approval, owners get a yearly Patronage Dividend based on how much you shop. The more you shop, the more you get back. And that dividend can either be used to help pay for your purchases, or paid out in cash at customer service.
- There are other additional owner benefits like coupons, case discounts, special orders, discounts for volunteering, and educational classes. And we’re always thinking of new ways to reward our owners for their support!
- Most importantly, ownership means you have a voice. You can vote for our board of directors who guide the future of the co-op. You can also attend our yearly owner meeting where you can get more information and ask questions about where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going.
How involved do I have to be to be an owner of a Co-op? Do I have to volunteer? Do I have to serve on the board? Do I have to work at the store?
Co-op membership used to come with a volunteerism requirement – not anymore. You can be as involved as you like. We’re happy just to have you visit and shop with us, whether that’s your morning coffee, your midday lunch or your full weekly grocery run.
However, if you want to be more involved, we offer many ways to do so.
- We offer an additional discount for those who volunteer in the community.
- You can run for a position on our board of directors to help guide the co-op
- You can apply for one of our open positions and come work with us
- You can attend any one of our many events like our Farm Fest in the fall, or our Run For Hope 5K in the spring
The level of involvement is always up to you!
You used to have a product I loved, now you don’t have it on your shelf anymore. What’s with that? Can I still get it?
There are many reasons why we would stop offering a product. The vendor may not make it anymore. Our suppliers may not offer it anymore. Or, the item just isn’t popular and we want to bring in new and exciting products to take its place.
If the reason is the latter, you have the option of a Special Order. Most special orders are in case quantities, and as an owner, you are eligible for a 10% case discount when you preorder! See our customer service desk for more info.
I have a question that’s not mentioned here – how can I get an answer?
We’re always happy to talk “co-op” with anyone who stops in or gives us a call. We’re available by phone, by email, through a form on our website, or in person in our store! You can ask any employee (and if they don’t have the answer, we’ll find someone who does), stop by our Customer Service desk, or leave a note in our comment box – we’ll answer all questions personally if you wish, or on our comment board every week.