Cooperative fans and caffeine aficionados rejoiced when White Electric Coffee at 711 Westminster Street reopened in May. Over the past year, a group of former employees from Providence’s beloved coffee shop formed the worker-owned CUPS Cooperative and purchased the business from the former owner.
Worker-owner Chloe Chassaing joined Local Return directors Raul Figueroa and Josh Daly to talk about the transition. While customers probably won’t see much of a change, Chloe said, “Internally it does feel differently, because we all have a stake, have a voice, have shared decision making power and responsibilities. We’re all just personally more invested, and it feels really good. It feels like we’re modeling on a small scale some of the things we’d like to see in society.”
The group looked to a cooperative structure because they’re known to be more resilient while also offering better wages and greater dignity. And there’s an added bonus for customers: you can know that the workers you encounter are receiving living wages. “All the people you see behind the counter there working are all the co-owners,” noted Chloe, “and they’re all the ones making the decisions, and they’re all the ones benefiting from your purchase of that bagel with cream cheese and avocado.”
Ever wanted to make Aunt Carrie’s clam cakes at home or serve sweet corn cakes from La Arepa at your next dinner party? This is your chance.
On May 21, a crowd gathered at Dave’s Marketplace in East Greenwich to celebrate Dish Up RI, a new initiative of Hope & Main. With a CARES Act grant from Commerce RI and support from a slew of excellent partners, Dish Up RI brings some of Rhode Island’s beloved restaurants into the grocery aisle. More than 25 participating “resto-preneurs” worked with a team of experts to bring their products to market.
Hope & Main President and Founder Lisa Raiola (also a Local Return board member) calculated the financial benefit of just one round of stocking the shelves with Dish Up RI products. “The funds that the federal government invested in this program are right back in circulation in our local economy,” she noted. “This is the power — the multiplier effect — of local, sustainable investment! Right there, we created alternative revenue streams for small businesses. We are building a distinct new food sector for Dave’s Market and other local grocers. And we are providing the Rhode Island consumer with dozens of new ways to enjoy their local favorites at home.”
If COVID has taught us anything, she continued, “it’s that we have radical permission to create something new.” Indeed! Thanks to Dish Up RI, you can get some delicious help with dinner, and feel good about where your money is going.
Rhode Island’s small businesses have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns. As we plan for the revival of our businesses, our economies, and community life, local investing is one potential solution.
That’s why Local Return is hosting Local Investing 101, a workshop series with Community Economist Michael H. Shuman, author of five books on local economies and local investment. According to Shuman, “Americans now have about $56 trillion in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds, and insurance funds—nearly all of it invested in global corporations. If we could shift even a small amount of that capital from Wall Street to Main Street, local economies could flourish.”
Special thanks to our sponsors who made this possible: Bank Newport, Delta Dental of Rhode Island, The Business Development Company, Navigant Credit Union, and Pawtucket Credit Union.
The series is built around four live sessions on June 16, 23, and 30, and July 14 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. and 15 videos you can watch independently between sessions. It’s intended for potential investors, small businesses, community officials, and anyone who cares about the local economy. Registration for the full workshop and video series is $50; scholarships are available.
“It’s really amazing to me to see how much folks are growing sometimes on very small pieces of land,” noted Jazandra Barros, Community Outreach Coordinator for Southside Community Land Trust.
SCLT would know. They’ve been around for 40 years, building infrastructure for urban gardens and farms. Jazandra spoke with Local Return director Sue AnderBois about their agricultural history and their more recent efforts to strengthen the local food system as a whole. “We’re meant to be in community by nature,” Jazandra said. “We thrive and grow in community.”
And community investors, take note! Jazandra highlighted an exciting development at 404 Broad Street, where SCLT is creating a small-scale, neighborhood-specific food hub. This hub will provide a processing facility for farmers who work with SCLT to wash, pack, and store food, and it will offer retail spaces for local food entrepreneurs. As Jazandra described, “The food is grown here, it’s processed here, and it’s distributed here.”
That’s exactly the kind of full-cycle investment we need to make, for the benefit of our people, communities, and economy.