Simply put, a cooperative is a special form of business owned and managed by the people who provide and/or use the goods and services that the business provides. They pool resources to satisfy a common need and provide these goods and services as economically and efficiently as possible. A co-op is owned by the people who use it.

As locally owned businesses, co-ops are committed to the people they serve and the communities they live in. Owners can have a voice in what is available for purchase, as well as in the overall organization of their particular co-op. Owners get the most buying power for their money, and the money stays in the community, contributing to its economic strength.

Like other cooperatives, Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Co-op operates according to the seven Cooperative Business Principles.

History of the Co-op
Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Co-op was born as a small neighborhood buying club in 1971. The people who nurtured its growth were activists in a local movement to create alternatives to established institutions, including grocery stores. Their dream was a store that provided healthy, non-polluting, cruelty-free foods at a fair price, a store that belongs to the community it serves.

A year later, we set up our fast-growing enterprise in an apartment storefront at 4859 Voltaire Street. Customers looked for perishable foods in the refrigerator (where else!) and added up their own purchases for the cashier.

Then in 1973 came a very big step: O.B. People's moved up the street to a former pool and dance hall. It took a lot of work just to get the building ready. Gradually, the new store filled up with products and fixtures. The store's reputation grew too. O.B. People's became known as a truly people-oriented store with a unique selection of foods and uncompromising standards for quality.

For nearly the first fourteen years, People's had operated as a worker's collective. Then, in 1985, the workers decided that since O.B. People's had always been a community store, it only made sense that it become a food cooperative.

The years 2001 and 2002 found us remodeling yet again. This time, however, the Co-op moved into a whole new building. We are staying on the same site that we have occupied since 1973, but we have designed and constructed a new sustainable building to meet our growing needs and serve as a model of conscious construction. The new building was completed in the summer 2002 and O.B. People's, our very own community-owned Co-op, has begun a new chapter for a new millennium.

The Co-op's Green Building

Through extensive cooperation between the architects, staff, members, and city planning boards our architectural firm, hanna gabriel wells, has succeeded in designing an up-to-date, sustainable, and environmentally responsible "green" building which serves as a regional model of conscious construction.

Following is a list of the many great features, both structural and functional, that we can experience in the new Co-op building.

While our total square footage has increased from approximately 7,000 to 12,900 square feet, our actual on-the-dirt square footage has increased from 5,000 to 7,660 square feet, with the difference of approximately 5,000 square feet being on the expanded second floor.

The front of the Co-op building faces east into the new parking lot, rather than north onto Voltaire Street minimizing the impact of traffic, while the Voltaire Street facade hosts 15 feet of windows. A native herb and flower garden along the sidewalk and in front of the building provide a welcome oasis from the hustle and bustle on Voltaire Street. A peaceful tree grove in the parking lot provides a place to hold Co-op special events and the parking lot has been laid with permeable pavers to prevent runoff.

Throughout the design process, we have heard the concerns of some of our Ocean Beach neighbors, as well as the praise and support of others, including our many Co-op members. We have constructed a new building that meets our Co-op needs while also staying in scale with our neighborhood. Although we constructed a larger building, we have a much lighter impact on our environment due to our environmentally conscious construction. Our seed has been planted, our growth has been tended, and now this 32-year-old food cooperative is blossoming in all of its organic glory.

Mission Statement

Mission: To operate a retail vegetarian food store providing high quality natural products at a fair and reasonable price.

Vision: The Cooperative is dedicated to helping people live in ways that are ecologically sustainable and that promote personal health and well-being.

Values: We believe that consumer ownership through a cooperative structure provides consumers with an optimal democratic forum to meet the needs of our community. We are committed to promoting ecological sustainability with the products and services we provide and in the way we operate our business. We promote and emphasize products that are nutritious, organically-grown, cruelty-free and produced in an environmentally sound manner. We believe that informed choices made by all consumers have far reaching impacts on the local and global community, and are committed to providing education and information to enhance nutritional and environmental awareness. We believe that our employees are valuable and essential to the success of our business, and will treat them with respect, compensate them fairly and provide a safe and supportive working environment.

The O.B. People's Organic Food Co-op Mission, Vision, and Values were approved by consensus at the Board of Directors meeting on May 15, 1996, as amended.

Cooperative Business Principles

In 1844, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers organized the first consumer cooperative associations. This was the humble beginning of a worldwide cooperative movement. The Rochdale Cooperative Principles have been adopted by thousands of cooperatives, including Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Co-op.

On September 23, 1995, in Manchester, England, the International Cooperative Alliance, on its centenary, adopted the revised Cooperative Principles below. They relate to our developing role and mission as cooperatives and are the principles that guide our own cooperative development at O.B. People's Co-op.

The International Cooperative Alliance Statement of Cooperative Identity
Definition: A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.

Values: Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.

Principles: The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.

First Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibility of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.

Second Principle: Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. People serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.

Third Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any of all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible, benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative, and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

Fourth Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.

Fifth Principle: Education, Training, and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public—particularly young people—about the nature and benefits of cooperation.

Sixth Principle: Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.

Seventh Principle: Concern for the Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.

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