As more people turned to home improvements during the COVID-19 pandemic, many do-it-yourself retailers and suppliers saw increases in sales and demand nationwide.
In Sequim, staff with the Co-Op Farm and Garden, 216 E. Washington St., report they’ve done well and continue to pay Patronage Dividends to cooperative members from recent years.
General manager Ken Garling said 7,293 Co-Op members from 2018-2021 received a Patronage Dividend from 1981-1999 equity, at about $377,000.
Each annual dividend is determined by the Co-Op’s profit, or surplus each fiscal year, with Garling saying members who spend more than $600 annually will receive a dividend.
Annual dividends from 2018-2021 were also paid out at about $91,000, he said.
Their goal this year is to pay equity from 2000-2004 with checks out in December. Last year, the Co-Op paid annual equity to customers from 1996-1999.
The Co-Op’s board set a goal to be up-to-date by 2026, Garling said.
“We thought about expanding the store [in 2018], but we felt we had a fiduciary duty to get caught up [with dividends],” Garling said.
“It’s still in the plan and within a few years we can look at expansion and things around the property.”
What is it?
The Co-op Farm and Garden opened in 1936 as a cooperative agri-business with each member having a vote and equal say, according to staff.
“It’s been a fixture in our community,” Garling said. “Yes, the Co-Op has changed with the climate of the market, but its bones are still there.
“It’s the hometown hardware store, and has survived big boxes and remained relevant and that says a lot.”
The Co-Op employs 27 full- and part-time staff that Garling said has been relatively consistent during the pandemic.
“We’ve been fortunate to have such a great crew and to get some new hires on relatively quickly,” Garling said.
With more people at home during the pandemic, he said residents felt a need to fix elements of their homes more.
“What sets us apart is the customer service aspect,” Garling said. “They don’t just want to know what’s on aisle 10 but how something works.
“From a customer service standpoint, we really excel … When people come into the Co-Op and they call you by your first name and you can ask about families and pets, it’s the personal touch.”
As issues continue to emerge, such as the supply chain delaying and/or limiting stock, Garling said they’ve adapted by increasing “high velocity stock” from a few weeks to a few months of supplies, such as grass seed and wood pellets, which “surprisingly move year round for us.”
“We’re still struggling with consistency [of stock] and it has improved a little bit but it’s still not even close to what it was pre-pandemic,” Garling said.
“Our True Value supplier is doing a good job. But if our main supplier doesn’t have it, we can try it from a second, or third or fourth supplier.”
Along with supply adaptability, Co-Op staff said they’ve adapted like most businesses to offer contact-less sales via curbside and making a majority of their stock available online.
“We’re always looking at ways to be relevant,” Garling said.
“[Adding] Hallmark was a big move for us. We expanded our nuts and bolts to twice its square footage and now it’s a robust selection. The feedback is this is the best selection in the whole Olympic Peninsula.”
Other notable expanded areas include housewares, saw blades and drill bits, he said.
For more information about the Co-Op Farm and Garden and its membership and dividend information, visit TheCo-OpFarmAndGarden.com or call 360-683-4111 and ask for the business office. It’s open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m.