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Co-op pays equity stock to longtime members
The Co-Op Farm & Garden, 216 E. Washington St., recently announced it paid out $30,266 to members with active stock equity from 1959-1973.
General manager Mike Youngquist said the decision came from the Co-op’s board of directors.
“There are a lot of co-ops that go a long time and never pay it (dividends) back,” he said. “It was decided by the board of directors to retire some stocks and 1959 is technically the oldest stock we have.”
About 80 checks were issued to members of the Co-op of varying amounts for their purchases over the 14-year span.
Youngquist said the $30,266 reflects members’ share of profits that were issued in equity in the Co-op to be redeemed at a later date rather than in cash at the time.
Co-op board president Larry Klahn said it was the right time to begin paying back members.
“We have quite a bit of cash in the bank (about $200,000 he estimates), don’t owe any money and it’s a good time to do that,” he said.
Klahn said the Co-op’s directors and staff have been trying to improve the business’ financial standing for years. Co-op officials paid off and burned the business’ mortgage on Jan. 24, 2011.
The Co-op, formerly known as the Clallam Cooperative Association, began in August 1936 and sold a little bit of everything, including groceries, appliances, machinery and grain and feed. But as Sequim residents moved away from farming and developed more land, the Co-op progressively changed, too. In the late 1960s, the
Co-op sold its grain elevator and since transitioned from an agricultural cooperative to a consumers cooperative.
Gregg Stone, a board member, said the change was a direction the Co-op had to go to stay in business.
Prior to 1959, he said the Co-op had a negative net worth and it’s taken a long time to recover.
“It’s always been a goal of the directors to pick up some slack,” he said.
However, Klahn said the board has opted to leave most of the decisions to management.
“We don’t run the store,” he said. “We try to provide them with a place to do business. For the most part, they’ve been doing a pretty good job.”
Youngquist said it remains directors’ and staff’s goal to pay back more dividends.
“Hopefully in the future, we remain profitable and hit another block and retire some more equity,” he said.
Klahn said paying back members is a priority but not their No. 1 objective.
“We have other things that keep creeping up,” he said. “If the money is sitting in the bank, it belongs to the members. The program has been in place a long time and those are the members who have first shot at it.”
Being a member of the Co-op, Stone said, is more about supporting a locally owned business than receiving dividends.
“(The Co-op) is not a big box store,” he said. “We try to provide great service and information. We like to think we’re better at it.”
Looking to the future, Klahn remains optimistic.
“(The Co-op) is in good standing,” he said.
“These aren’t good times, so things could change rapidly. We’ve spent a few years getting where we are now. It’s still a growing thing. I have hopes for the future it’ll be a prosperous business and boon for the town.”
For more information on the Co-op, call 683-4111 or visit theco-opfarmandgarden.com.