Weaver St. Move

I recently learned from the Weaver St. Newsletter that they plan on moving their bread and pastry bakery, kitchen, and offices to Hillsborough. This seems like a big loss for Carrboro. The Chapel Hill News printed the following letter I wrote and I set up the blog OurWeave.blogspot.com to discuss the move.

The scheduled move of Weaver Street Market's "food production facilities" and offices to Hillsborough will result in a loss of around 80 jobs for Carrboro and have a detrimental effect on the town and the environment.

The environment impacts are the most obvious: 80 workers driving 24 miles each workday equals around 2,000 miles a day. That is a lot of carbon emission, and it doesn't include the added distribution miles of having a non-centrally located "production and office facility."

The workers will suffer most directly: adding an hour of driving onto their daily work routine; for many, having to buy a car; leaving their work community in vibrant downtown Carrboro; and for the bakers, having to start work at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. to allow for extra distribution time.

Most of the food kitchen staff is Hispanic, lives in Carrboro, and does not drive to work. The impact on the Hispanic community is unclear. Some may move to Hillsborough and some may be forced to quit, weakening the fabric of an important piece of our community.

Carrboro businesses should also not be happy about 80 downtown jobs leaving. That loss translates to a lot of lunches, dinners, drinks, shopping, etc., done elsewhere.

Ruffin Slater lists some benefits of the move in the latest Weaver Street newsletter, but they fail to persuade me that Weaver Street would be following its mission or benefiting the consumer-owners. Additionally, I would miss the fresh-baked bread and pastries, the fresh hot-bar, and my friends whom I would no longer see walking to work or taking a break on the market lawn. -- Daniel Amoni, Carrboro



Geez, sounds like it is time to boycott the evil Uber-store that WSM has become based on all the complaints of unfairness, mislabeling, etc.

Let' em just up and move to Hillsborough for all I care.

I think this move would be beneficial for employees and for the consumers. Granted, there is an inconvenience for a few employees due to the distance and possibly the schedule change. As a consumer, I have always been concerned about the lack of indoor space at WSM during inclement weather. If moving the food workers to Hillsborough means increasing the cafe space, I say that's wonderful.

Also, let's keep in mind that we live in a free market society. If WSM does not compete with the other big wigs consumers would start flocking to stores with cheaper prices.

I ask you this. What is better for the worker?

Move to Hillsborough and have a company make the effort of providing transportation and help the employee?


Stay in Carrboro with no expansion and having employees lose their jobs in 5 years due to increased competition by Whole Foods and Wal-Mart?

There is a loyal base of customers, and being from Hillsborough I can assure you that the local community here is excited to have a WSM store and a WSM facility.

I think the citizens of Carrboro and Chapel Hill need to learn their own concept of sharing and realize that "Chapelboro" does not control Orange.

There is always somewhere cheaper to move a business, but does anybody out there actually believe that WSM is not making money right where they are? Just wait 10 more years when Hillsborough real estate prices are comparitive to Carrboro's and WSM moves the bakehouse to Burlington (along with a new store of course), where they will par bake the loaves of bread and freeze them for shipping, and the consumers of Hillsborough are happy because when they were there one Sunday morning and it was raining that had to share a table with people they didn't even know. This is not about Carrboro/ Chapel Hill elitism. I believe that Hillsborough has, just like Pittsboro has, a lot of talented and capable folks who could build a real community owned grocery store for themselves that would far outshine WSM III. And what WSM is forgetting is that its their alleged values that have gotten them this far, and of course the quality of their bread, which they are also willing to compromise in this expansion.

The move is not an inconvenience for just a few employees. The move is an inconvenience for just about every person who currently works in food production. That is about 60 people.
And yes, we live in a free market society, but Whole Foods and Walmart and Target are already cheaper than Weaver St. and yet people continue to shop at Weaver St. I always thought this was, among other things, because people wanted to support a store that had different values than these other stores (including on-site production of fresh food). But with the expansion, it seems that many of these values are being compromised.
And it's not about people in Carrboro not wanting to share what they have with folks in other towns. I think a co-op in Hillsborough is a great idea. But it is not a good idea for Weaver St. if it means moving to an off-site production facility, for either workers or consumers. Yes, it might mean more indoor seating, but it will also mean this: given the earlier start time we are told is necessary at the production facility, biscuits (for example) would come out of the oven at about 4am. By the time the Carrboro store opens, these biscuits will be almost 4 hours old. On Sunday, when brunch is up until 1:30pm, those biscuits will be almost 10 hours old. You might enjoy sitting inside, but will you enjoy your stale biscuit? What about your stale bread?
(And lest anyone wish to take a jab at the current quality of the biscuit - if you don't like it now, it will only get worse. I'm not saying that the biscuit is a great culinary wonder, just that moving to a production facility certainly will not improve it).
Weaver St. is withstanding the competition of other stores now, and even without the expansion, I am condifident that it would continue to do so. I am not confident, however, that people will continue to shop at Weaver St. as the quality of the product declines.

If the biscuits are the same biscuits used on the sausage/veg sausage biscuits, they can't really get much worse.

I hope they keep the tahini dressing on the salad bar. That's the best thing going.

Kirk Ross' recent article about Weaver Street Market's Food House plans was a timely and clear articulation of Ruffin's vision for Weaver Street Market. I'm concerned however, as a bread baker whose job is moving to Hillsborough, that an article admitting his plans have raised concerns among workers fails to give any voice to those very workers.

This article should be followed up with a companion piece based on interviews with workers who disagree with the move. I'd like to suggest three long-term and loyal employees you might want to speak with—one from each of the three food production departments slated to leave downtown Carrboro:

Claudia Lopez has worked in the market's kitchen for 12 years. She says that the hands-on creativity of her work has always been of utmost importance to her, but feels this has been encouraged less and less in recent years. As she and others have been required to make larger and larger batches to supply additional demand, she has seen quality and care go down. She fears this will worsen with a move to the Food House and is not sure she will be able to handle it. She thinks introducing “some weird machines” to the process will only distance her further from a real connection to her work.

Camila Redzovic, a Bosnian refugee, has been working in our pastry department for 12 years. In response the push for starting shifts earlier at the Food House, she says flat-out that Weaver Street Market could not pay her enough to work before 4:00 am. She does not want her job to move from her community, where she walks two blocks to work every morning, but she feels she has no choice in the matter. She thinks the new facility will be “like a factory.”

Emily Buehler has worked as a baker at the store for six years since earning a PhD in Chemistry from UNC. More than any other baker, Emily has opened up our bakery and our craft to the public through Bakery Open House Nights, bread baking classes, and articles in the store's newsletters. Her recently self-published book, Bread Science, has sold over 600 copies. Emily states that while she agrees with Ruffin's vision of putting small stores downtown to move people closer to their food, she wonders why this can't also apply to food workers who wish to work in their own communities. She notes that a move to a commissary model of food production will actually serve to distance customers from the preparation of their food at the same time the store is touting its concept of Authentic Food and the need to close that distance.

I believe giving a voice to the concerns of these and other workers is just as important as hearing more about Ruffin's plans. At a time when many employees at Weaver Street Market feel their dissent is being glossed over or ignored, it would be good to know our new local paper could serve as a remedy. Without balanced reporting about a contentious issue, such articles could be accused of being more spin control than responsible journalism.

Very insightful to have such a human face put on it. Thanks for posting, Seth.

Nice approach, Seth.

Although I _really_ like the Citizen (especially for their 10 day scoop on the N&O about the involvement of Hayes in the mural fiasco), I was also a little dismayed by them only interviewing Ruffin in their article. I can *kinda* see their rationale (they did print Daniel's letter), but I expected them to include some employee voices, too.

Also, one passage in their article caught my eye:

"and so the decision was made to go offsite.
Once that bridge was crossed, the question was “where”?"

when I read that, my 'passive voice detecto-meter' went off the charts.

But I suspect this isn't the last treatment the Citizen will give to this story.

Thanks for ideas and criticism. It's alway helpful.

One of the difficult things when covering an institution of any kind is to get a clear view of what's happening behind the scenes.

Over the years, I've appreciated the value of a one-on-one interview to give decision-makers a chance to respond to concerns and to get on record their take on a matter. Sometimes, this does a much better job of spurring conversation than a back and forth style story that tries to capture all the controversy in one swoop.

I wanted to do this in the case of Weaver Street because there are a lot of issues involved in the changes, including the impact on employees, the development of downtown Hillsborough and Carrboro and the dearth of commercial space in southern Orange.

Having something on the record in a public forum is also import so we're all talking about the same numbers. For instance, I had heard that 80 employees would be affected when, according to Ruffin, 60 will be. And while I've heard people say that the majority regularly walk or bike to work, he says that number is closer to 20. So, OK, that's on the record now and disputable by anyone who knows different.
Then, there's the whole issue of commercial space. I have heard people say Carrboro sucks for now allowing them to expand more at Carr Mill. But along with the vastly different cost per square foot, one of the deal breakers there seems to be truck access and a loading dock.

As Ken notes above, this is not the last of the story. It was never intended to be. Thanks for all the suggestions about this important story.

Kirk Ross
Editor, The Carrboro Citizen

Kirk it's not enough to simply print one person's statement and then say "that's on the record now and disputable by anyone who knows different." Most of us don't have the resources to research this thoroughly, we count on journalists to verify the information they print and to get a second (and sometimes third) opinion.

I'm not saying it's enough. I'm saying I asked how many employees were affected and this is the answer I got from management. That's their estimate and it's in the public record now.

If it's not accurate and someone knows why, then hopefully in a future story they can say so and explain it.

Nice comment Seth! Good to hear some of the workers stories.

Is it time for another bakery in Carrboro?

Given that WSM employees a lot of undocumented workers, I wonder how this affects the workers ability to organize against this move.

I do a lot of work with big consulting firms about what they euphemistically call "human capital." Most of us use the term "people."

In any case, there's a tectonic shift in the works right now in terms of the relationships between companies and talent. Simply put, the balance of power is shifting, and will accelerate over the next decade. Companies that recognize this shift and redefine work to foster loyalty will thrive. Those that get the reputation for "throwing workers under the bus" will suffer and fail.

I'm not saying WSM is throwing anyone under the bus. Maybe they are, and maybe they aren't, but IF they are, it will prove to be stupid and short-sighted. If they're NOT, they'll continue to thrive.

Corporate reputations take years to build, yet they can be destroyed overnight. I hope WSM treads carefully and keeps its long-standing commitments close to its heart. I fear that will be increasingly difficult as the co-op continues to grow.


You make a good point.

I've been willing to pay extra for products at WSM because I thought they were different. And I still think they are different. But if they are going to make cold business decisions like any other organization, why should I give them business instead of Whole Foods?

Here's a quote from the management at Gilden when they closed down the sock plant in Mayberry the other day. Read this quote and tell me you can't see the same business rationale for this move. What makes WSM different?

"Gildan regrets the impact of this announcement on its affected employees and their communities," it said in a statement. "However, the relocation of capacity to modern large-scale facilities offshore is necessary in order to be globally competitive with imports from Asia."

It seems to me that the root problem here is that WSM, like our local governments, equates progress with growth. The confusion comes from the simulataneous embracement of policies inherently grounded in E.F. Schumacher's small is beautiful approach to sustainable local economies and land use. The contradiction between this espoused theory and their evolving business practice is creating a cognitive dissonance. I believe this same dissonance undergirds many of our community's most contentious debates, including school funding and development moratoriums.

How many stores does WSM ultimately want? Does their long-term plan include becoming like EarthFare with stores located across the state/region? How many stores can our local farm community support before WSMs suport for "local" farms starts expanding out across the state/region?

Is this the definition of co-operative? "Yes, we are a really really real coop, says so on our business license." - James Morgan

I would think the member/owners' opinion would count for at least as much as the state government's. My problem is much more with the way decisions are made, than with the decisions themselves. Although there are plenty of WSM policies I disagree with, I would feel OK about that if I understood why my co-cop was making such decisions.

BTW, where the hell were all the rest of you when we've discussed WSM's governance every year? Where were you during the annual meeting (not that we were asked out opinions there)?

Daniel, that first address should have been dotcom not dotcoop

Just a few things to consider:

"Small is beautiful..." Yes, and Weaver Street Market is small, will stay small. WSM's largest store is less than half the size of the 40,000 s.f. "boutique" stores that Harris Teeter considers the smallest grocery worth opening. Our plans for world domination do feature the cooperative as the primary business model but I would expect that dream to be best realized as a network of interconnected small organizations.

"Hillsborough should start its own coop". Great, we'd have been down with that. The more the better. WSM was happy to provide much startup support for our new sister coop in Pittsboro, ask any of the founders who put in years of determined unpaid work to make that happen. As nobody had done that in Hillsborough, and we had a lot of customers from there already, and downtown Hillsborough had not had a grocery store to call its own in goodness knows how many years, when the opportunity presented itself Weaver Street Market stepped up to the plate. Quit whining already.

"What about a worker-owned coop bakery in Carrboro?" Great. Couldn't imagine anything better for all of us. Some friendly competition would put us on our mettle and get the quality even higher, take even more market share from the crap that passes for bread in the average supermarket. The town I grew up in, the size of Chapel Hill, had four or five artisanal bakeries at least, as well as the plant producing presliced prewrapped wonderbread-style pablum. A high school friend of mine had a summer job there - his job was to rip off the wrappers saying "this is your monday loaf" from the returned unsold bread and feed the stuff back into the machine to be rewrapped as "this is your thursday loaf".... But I digress.

"The food sucks and we must make sure there's no improvement in the cramped kitchen where its made". Reminds me of the old restaurant joke: "the food sucks and there's not enough of it".

"Weaver Street Market is not a real coop ..." Because why? Because it's successful, turns a profit, returns the whole of that profit to its community, provides better paid jobs than any other local grocery, has exemplary employee retention rates, has a national reputation for thoughtful management and governance, what? As a director, whenever I attend the national Consumer Cooperative Conference I have to fend off accusations that we are not a real coop because we have workers who are owners and worker-owners on our board of directors (most coops explicitly prohibit them). Yes, we are a really really real coop, says so on our business license. We're committed to honoring all the regular coop principles of the International Cooperative Alliance and practicing them as well. And we are way above average in north american food coops in honoring the rights of our our employees to jobs which are sustaining, sustainable and empowering.

"WSM is just like Gildan shutting down its sock plant in Mayberry!" Reality check: Gildan is leaving town for good - gone, closed, finito, caput. No commuting to "offshore", wherever that is. WSM's plans are GROWING local employment, spreading the joy to our friends and neighbors a few miles up the road. Gimme a break.

"Weaver Street Market is in danger of losing its way". Not if I have anything to do with it. And not if you have anything to do with it either - you who are reading this thread and are WSM owners (and if you're not owners, what's stopping you?). It is a community-owned business and is answerable to its ownership. If you have concerns, quit whining and do something about it. Get informed, vote, attend board meetings, attend annual owner meetings (we're lucky to get 200 out of 8,000-plus owners in spite of the food bribes to get you there).

Finally, just for the record, WSM holds all the required documentation on all its employees in accordance with state and federal legislation. The insinuation that WSM uses undocumented status to manipulate vulnerable employees is despicable.

And quit whining already about the Carrboro Citizen too. Kirk does a fantastic job down there, totally professional. We're lucky to have him, lucky to have the paper in our community. Ruby, please learn the difference between an interview, an in-depth article and an editorial.

I WAS a WSM share owner--in fact, I had a three digit number WELL below 400. As I recall, we bought our membership in the first year WSM opened. I know I was volunteering as a bagger in 1989--because The Boy was an infant. The discount really helped keep our food budget under control.

I bailed a few years ago. My grocery co-op was buying real-estate, starting up a radio station and had started a restaurant (where I DIDN'T receive a discount) and I felt it had lost it's focus. I wasn't interested in social engineering...I was interested in good food.

Nothing that has happened since has made me regret that decision.

Oh, and the folks I know who work at Whole Foods say it's a good company to work for.


The tone of your response pretty well explains why I don't care to get involved with the coop. If the board of directors wants to improve member/OWNER relationships, perhaps they should remember that the purpose of feedback isn't to give you ammunition for dismissing OWNER concerns but to provide the board and staff with the data needed to craft thoughtful, responsive actions and/or explanations to alleviate the expressed concerns. Apparently you believe your role as a board member is to educate us on what ignorant whiners we are.

And BTW, you didn't answer my questions. You just danced around them. A network of interconnected small organizations doesn't necessarily reflect the small is beautiful concept. Starbucks comes to mind.....they too started out small.

I, and many others, have some concerns regarding the direction WSM has been heading. Discussing an issue is the beginning of getting involved--getting informed--so please don't judge us as whiners. Furthermore, trying to silence someone by making such an accusation conveys the message that you think you are above him or her, judging his or her remarks as an inappropriate and irrational means for expression. That's not how I would want to treat my friends or people I respect.
No one that I know thinks that Weaver St. is a real CO-OP because it has a heirarchical management structure similar to most non-cooperative businesses and there are no means for participating in the decision-making other than voting for two seats on the seven-member board. Having Ruffin on as a permanent member doesn't offer a real balance of power, since his presence at board meetings could be felt as threatening to the jobs of the two worker-owners on the board. I heard that there was an attempt to get Ruffin off the board some years ago, but that he produced a letter from WSM's lending institution stating that they want him on the board as a condition for borrowing money. Not too cooperative is it?
If you really want owner input, one way would be to set up advisory boards made up of consumer and worker owners. Another would be to let the owners vote on major issues such as the Hillsborough move. Holding annual meetings doesn't cut it.

Maybe it is time for the disenfranchised, downtrodden workers that will be so damaged by this change to break free of the chains that keep them at WSM and start a "real" food co-op! Go for it folks! Leave that evil WSM profit making machine in the dust. I am sure everyone will be happy to have a real co-op again. What are you guys waiting for?

I earlier composed the beginning of a reply to Terri's comment but have been away from my computer and Daniel and jmk's comments have come in since leaving my composure in tatters. Dealing with rumors, innuendos and assertions dressed up as facts is what makes responding to anything on Orange Politics so frustrating and - there goes the tone again. Daniel, I'm sorry but the story about a lender interfering with WSM governance is typical - I've been on the board ten years and I have no idea what you're talking about. Please contact me at artonweaveratmindspring.coop if you have any information on this you wish to share. I'd be happy to sit down with you personally and listen to your concerns.

jmk, the "evil profit-making machine" is ready and willing to help out any new cooperative initiative in the area in any way it can.

Now here's the reply to Terri I composed earlier:

Terri, I apologize to you and anyone else who was bothered by the tone of my last comment. I tried to put a lot of informative content in my post and I regret it was not enough to satisfy you. I will try to answer your questions as directly as I am able:

"How many stores does WSM ultimately want?" As many as it takes to fulfill our mission, I hope not too many, it's a lot of work. The answer actually is not in a number but in a result: a vibrant sustainable local economy.

"Does their long-term plan include becoming like EarthFare with stores located across the state/region?" There is no such long-term plan, no such plan has even been seriously considered and I don't see how it would fit into our commitment to local ownership and true engagement with local community. Our long-term plans are no more and no less than as regularly stated in our annual report. It's the real deal.

"How many stores can our local farm community support before WSM's support for “local” farms starts expanding out across the state/region?" Boy, this is some question. Or is it two questions? I wish I knew the answers but can only give opinions. As to the first part I would love to see the local farm community become capable of supporting ALL our local needs for perishable nonexotic foodstuffs. By all I mean HT and FL and WF and TJ as well as the local coops. This may be an unrealistic hope and we're such a long long way from that now. I go to the farmer's market and exult in the quality and variety and freshness of the produce and then I stop to think what would happen if the trucks stopped running from CA and AZ and Mexico and god-help-us Canada with all the imported beets and broccoli and lettuce and tomatoes, is this all we'd have and is it enough? Not even close. Not even close. Yet we have good farmland all about us hardly being tapped for its bounty. This in no way to denigrate the ninety-odd local farmers in that market, boy I love 'em, they work so hard for us and I appreciate and thank them for every drop of sweat. The least we can do for them in return is to guarantee them a stable and consistent and dare I say consistently expanding market share (compared to the imported stuff) for their produce. Growth really can be beautiful too. As to the second part of the question, which I take it to mean is our present concept of local produce local enough? My personal opinion? Not so much. I would love to see our local farmland growing a network (that word again) of small highly productive farms with so much local demand for their product that the idea of shipping even fifty miles to a neighboring market would seem as insane as the notion of selling the family land for grossly unsustainable exurban development. If you haven't read it yet, check out Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal Vegetable Miracle" for, amongst other things, a very moving account of what consistent and reliable local markets mean to oh-so-vulnerable and oh-so-important small-scale farmers. Next on my personal reading list: "The 100-mile Diet"

With regard to your other comments: I am frankly staggered by the comparison of Starbucks, a nationwide investor-owned franchise, with our own community-owned food coop. Today Hillsborough, tomorrow Tokyo? At perhaps one tenth of one percent of the size of our closest market competitor, I hardly think so. Whole Foods is the fifth largest grocery chain in the country. Earth Fare and Trader Joe's are trying hard to follow in their footsteps. We, very emphatically, are not. Only our ideas are big, and the biggest of those is that coops can do what other businesses can't - we can stay alive and prosper through good times and bad in the heart of the communities that support us just as we support them. You can find closed and shuttered former grocery stores all over the state indicating a location which a remote central office decided was no longer profitable. That just can't happen when the community owns the store and wants it to stay. You can be sure we will do everything we can to promote that model of cooperative community ownership, as long and as hard as we can. Nationally and regionally, we strive only to serve as a model of good cooperative practice. Locally, we serve our community as best we can. If we have to open another new store ourselves to fulfill our mission, and it's within our means, we'll do it. If a new coop entity wants to have a go, we'll be there with help, encouragement and advice, just as we were with Chatham Marketplace.

I believe you are right in your claim that "small is beautiful" is one of the implicit underlying concepts of our coop. But you also feel there is a cognitive dissonance between Weaver Street Market theory and practice in this area, and there I have to disagree. Of course your idea of small might be different from the one by which Weaver Street Market is currently operating. If your definition of small is "not having more than one location" then I would encourage you to do your homework and find out if some other owners share your views, and then bring it to the board. Contact us at boardatweaverstreetmarket.coop to make sure it gets on the agenda. I guarantee we'll listen, respectfully.


Thank you for taking the time to provide that explanation. We clearly agree on the importance of local farms and our personal desire to eat locally grown food. But we may have a difference of opinion on what constitutes "small."
I do not believe that small means one store. But I do think it's a contradictory to say that this expansion is being carried out in order to be more competitive with Whole Food and Trader Joes and then turn around and say that the fundamental value is to meet the needs of owners.

The coop had a major membership drive in Hillsborough and asked for loans to build that store. Which came first, the plans to build the store or the membership drive?

As I understand the coop governance, the role of the board of directors is to set policy, while staff implements policy. Is there a specific policy on expansion? Why did the board provide guidance to the Chatham market, but chose to set up its own store in Hillsborough? What is the "value" difference to owners between those two communities? Now that you will have a nice big Food House, with sufficient capacity to grow further, what criteria will be used to decide whether or not you open a 4th or 5th location?

I hope you will not take these questions as angry or critical. I truly want to understand the policies driving the market.

Terri: the fundamental value is indeed to meet the needs of owners. We actually need to stay in business in order to do that. The membership drive and the plans for the Hillsborough store went hand in hand. If there had been insufficient response to the membership drive we would not have gone ahead. This was exactly the same process which was used to open the Southern Village store and the original Carrboro location.

And as I thought I explained above, Chatham Marketplace opened as an independent cooperative because that was how the organizers wished it to be. We gave support because that's what cooperatives do to help each other. There were no such organizers coming forward in Hillsborough: if there had been we would have helped them in exactly the same way and for the same reasons. The value difference to owners in the two communities is that one wanted its own coop and the other wanted a branch of WSM. We absolutely respect that difference. If a group of dedicated individuals were to come forward now and announce plans to open a new independent cooperative in, say north Chapel Hill at Timberlyne, I can say without hesitation that we would help them as fully as we are able. That, I repeat, is what cooperatives do.

The criteria for opening further stores? They're all in our ends statement. Quite simply, will the additional store meet our established ends of responsible community development? Helping answer that question will be management research on perceived demand, the availability of sufficient financial and human resources both to start up and stay for the long haul, the availability of suitable premises or building land and so on. It's a long and careful process.

Hi all you posters to this forum! I just wanted to weigh in as one of the workers whose job will be moved to Hillsborough in October. I understand why WSM feels the need to have an off-site food production facility (i really dislike the food house euphemism); increased demand for products, increasing costs of doing business in carrboro, and the desire have a broader owner base. All good things. but how are you gonna like your baguette when you sit down to dinner at 8 pm and that bread was baked 15 hours before, instead of the 8 that many consider too long anyway. Why is this so you ask? Because when WSM thinks its customers want a french roll at 7:30am it will have to be cool enough to handle at 5:30 to make it to the last truck stop in SV. and what time, you ask, does a baker have to be at work to deliver your delicious artisan bread? around 2 am, and thats after a roughly 20-30 minute carmute, so lets say that baker has gotten up at 1 am. Now what time does that baker need to go to bed in order to get enough sleep to drive safely and work efficiently? approximately 5 pm. how will this impact the bakers life? how would it impact yours? will you ask your children to tuck themselves in hours after you lay your head down. are you going to board over your windows to keep out the sunshine and noises of the early evening? would you like to not see a sunrise or sunset 5 out of 7 days? and thats just the impact that the schedule will have on us, the workers. what about having to buy cars and pay for high gas prices and insurance. we might be payed better that many other grocery store workers but we still mostly make less than 24k a year. many of us have families, education debt, and other places our money is better spent than going into the petro/automotive industrial complex. how is a worker spending a third of their paycheck to ford/exxon/geico helping keep the money local?
I love working with bread at WSM, it is a good food from start to finish but the move to H'boro is more than just a commute, its a lifestyle change that will decrease the quality of my life and work. so if after Oct. 1 I dont have that happy look on my face any more and your challah doesnt seem to have as much pride and love worked into it, i am sorry, i'm just too worn down.

What we should really be getting critical about is the policy of Food Lion & Harris Teeter not to buy & sell locally grown produce (in favor of their arrangements with big agribusiness firms).

And what about getting locally grown and produced food into our schools and hospitals?

WSM is doing a remarkable job altering the bland & corporate (and often dangerous) food landscape. And it is within our local control. It seems that WSM is being held to extremely high - and shifting - standards in this discussion.

Thanks Mark for introducing a little perspective. I would add that there is nothing wrong with being held to a high standard. Weaver Street Market has always set itself challenging goals and high expectations.


Thanks for taking the time to provide this information.

More perspective:

In no small way has WSM changed my life, from what I eat and how I think about food to how I live and think about community. Without WSM, I would probably be relentingly local. As a result, hearing about their move and plans of centralization feels like a betrayal, with perhaps negative consequences for my community (which is Carrboro, not Orange County).

This discussion has helped me sort through the pluses and minuses of the move, but I still feel that the impact on the workers is the most important criterion for evaluating the move. Such an evaluation, however, takes places from a somewhat idealized perspective and can appear to be too harsh on WSM. In the real world, I am very grateful to have WSM two blocks from my house, but I am also disheartened that it makes more sense to them to move much of their talent elsewhere.

A lot of the criticism on this thread falls under making the perfect the enemy of the very good.

I've been a WSM member for about 5 years. I find the co-op to be a tremendous force for good in the community. Does that mean that I agree with and support everything they do? Certainly not.

But here are some observations of mine. A while back, WSM put forth a proposal to change the way the discount worked and return a dividend every year, like REI. If WSM was the running-roughshod-over-the-community organization that some have characterized it as, I'm sure this would have been pushed through. It didn't happen because many owners objected to the change.

As to expansion, in 2004, some downtown enthusiasts I knew back in Winston-Salem were looking to try to start a grocery co-op. I mentioned this to Ruffin Slater to see if WSM might be interested in expanding to the Triad. He responded that WSM had plenty going on with the Southern Village store (then recently opened) and interest from Hillsborough residents in a store, and he didn't really envision WSM expanding elsewhere. He DID say that WSM would be happy to offer help or guidance to any of the Winston-Salem folks if they contacted him.

Since we're talking about food, I also find the idea that one's community ends at the Carrboro town line to be rather strange. To my knowledge, there are no working farms in Carrboro. The foods that we would most want to fill WSM, Chatham Marketplace, or any other co-op shelves (not to mention Food Lion and HT) are those from rural Chatham and Orange counties, our closest agricultural land.

Putting another store in Hillsborough which will increase the purchases from local farms also strengthens the long-term supply of local farm foods to the Carrboro store. Expanding the market makes it easier for farmers to stay farming, rather than turn their land into 5000 sq ft homes on large lots.

I do hope WSM can continue to work to find creative solutions for workers who will face transportation challenges-- there are certainly negative impacts on workers and any opportunity to mitigate them should be taken.


Thank you for your post.

I particularly enjoyed the quotes:

"Quit whining already."


"Gimme a break."

I promise not to question my co-op again.

Questioning is a basic aspect of democracy. It's our duty as coop members, voters, and activists to ask questions, and to expect 'leaders' whether they are coop board members, CEOs, or elected officials to provide explanations and answer questions. Questioning does not always equate with dissing. Expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo does not equate to lack of loyalty or appreciation.

Venice FL has some new guidelines for improving their public meetings and communicating/educating the public. WSM, as well as our local town leaders, should read this article carefully. If the general public doesn't UNDERSTAND the etiology of decisions, there is going to be greater push back against change than if leaders would take a bit more time and bring us along with them through the decision making process.

I appreciate James' willingness to answer my questions and to stick with this discussion that is predominantly critical of the organization he represents. That can't be easy even if it is part of the job. I don't disagree with the move to Hillsborough. Financially it makes perfect sense and is aligned with the coop goal of providing affordable, healthy food. But it is also at odds with their stated goals of supporting a local economy when people who work for the company are expected to either move or commute. Life isn't always smooth.

Patrick - great points about expanding to support local farms and the definition of local.

Ken, I firmly believe it's not only a right, it's a duty of ownership in a cooperative to ask questions. Wild allegations, inappropriate comparisons and unfair criticism of our other valued community resources like the Carrboro Citizen do indeed tend to bring out my impatient side, but I think you'll find that my responses to the actual questions asked in this thread have been to the best of my ability respectful, honest, and accurate.


Okay, I can see where you are coming from.


Kirk Ross reports on The Mill about a fax he received from WSM employees.

Text from Fax as reported by Kirk:

Co-op Workers Oppose Jobs Moving to Hillsborough

At least 100 Weaver Street Market (WSM) employees have signed a statement calling for a moratorium on WSM's plans to move 80 jobs from downtown Carrboro to an off-site food production facility and office space located in Hillsborough. This statement is to be presented during a meeting between the WSM Board of Directors and employees on Tuesday, June 19th at 6:30 pm. at Carrboro Elementary School, 400 Shelton Street. This meeting is open to the public.

The facility, slated to open October 1, 2007, will supply prepared foods to the two existing locations in Carrboro and Southern Village, as well as to a new store due to open in early 2008 in Hillsborough. In addition to having their jobs moved to another town, employees' concerns include increased production demands, mechanization of the workplace, decline in food quality, extended work hours, lack of transportation, and compensation. Most employees also question whether the decision to centralize production upholds the mission statement of WSM.

For more information, and a copy of the statement, please attend tonight's meeting.

I just want to say that Weaver Street Market has the best whole wheat, blueberry pancakes on the planet. I'm salivating now just thinking about them. As far as the controversial move of the food production facility and office space, I learned a lot from the preceding discourse. Most of the discussion was very thoughtful and respectful. I hope a solution for the greater good will be kind and gentle to the lesser good. And remember, the surest route to failure is to try to please everyone.
While everyone would like to think that Weaver Street will remain nostalgically the same, it simply has to evolve with the community. I believe they are quite mindful of their importance in the Carrboro and are quite sensitive and responsive to the needs of their members. Just promise me one thing, WSM, don't ever get rid of those delicious, savory whole wheat blueberry pancakes or you'll have me to deal with. Oh, and the cookies, don't even think about it!

Dear Board,

according to the WSM web page our mission statement is described as "...mission is a vibrant, sustainable commercial center for the community of owners and potential owners, ..."

Seeing how you represent us I am curious what you have to say about the issues raised in this thread:


Except for Mr. Morgan the board has remained quite silent on this issue. Any insight would be appreciated. Thank you.

Jamie Bort



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