In 2023, Elmer's is changing hands, and we have the chance to change the rules!
Instead of relying on an individual entrepreneur to keep Elmer's open, we can share the responsibility and the benefits.
WHY THIS STRATEGY?
In recent years, Elmer's has struggled to survive and thrive due to the same challenges faced by many small businesses, particularly those in rural areas - rising cost of goods, staffing difficulties, declining populations, covid disruptions, and dollars spent online and in bigger nearby towns.
The steering committee set out to create a "community owned Elmers" so that we can work together to bring Elmer's back to life. Our research has taken us down many paths as we figure out how to bring the vision to life. We believe this plan is the best way forward.
Why a Nonprofit Community Center?
Elmer's is as an essential "third place*" for Ashfield. It has been used as a flexible central meeting place for many different groups of humans and activities. In other words, it's already a Community Center!
Nonprofits are formed for charitable purposes, and are overseen by community volunteers who ensure they stay true to those intentions. By incorporating as a nonprofit, we can ensure that Elmer's serves as a community social hub for the town of Ashfield for years to come!
Nonprofits do not pay property tax, and can receive tax deductible donations. This means we can purchase the building with gifts, and we won't have to make ongoing mortgage or property tax payments. It means that we can keep rent affordable for all of our tenants, from residents to the cafe to the micro-businesses participating in the incubator.
Nonprofits have built-in liability protection for volunteers, which makes it easier for all of us to pitch in, whether staffing events or or painting the building
Why a Sister Cooperative Business to run the Cafe?
Some restaurants have a clear charitable purpose -- like food access or job training. None of those priorities have emerged for our town in the survey, and they would each add complication! As a cooperative business, the cafe will be overseen by a member-elected board, but will pay taxes like a regular business.
*From Wikipedia: Third places, then, are anchors of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. In other words, 'your third place is where you relax in public, where you encounter familiar faces and make new acquaintances.'
Why a Business Incubator?
The "business incubator" model allows for a lot of flexibility, now and in the future! We know we want Breakfast and Friday Night Dinners back! But survey respondents also want an art gallery, fresh vegetable stand, and poetry nights. That is too many different small business models for a single coop board to coordinate, but there may be individuals in our communities eager to launch those as micro-business owners. This creates a virtuous cycle of income for individuals and desired services for community members. (Image at right includes top words mentioned in response to the question: "What ADDITIONAL GOODS OR SERVICES do you wish we had in Ashfield that we don’t already have?")