CDI is excited to embrace Spring with the announcement of two new cooperative conversions! We are proud to add the Railroad Avenue Supply Company and Insource Renewables to our strong network of locally owned and controlled businesses across the Northeast!
Since 1963, the Railroad Avenue Supply Company has been a consistent community asset in Stamford. So much so that when the owner, Ralph Beisler, offered the business up for sale, workers immediately began researching the options for buying it. With guidance from Rob Brown, Director of CDI’s Business Ownership Solutions, workers pursued the conversion to a co-operative because they knew it was the best solution for combatting the trend of local stores succumbing to big-box competitors. Now an organization of 6 owners, one may think that big changes are on the horizon. Not at all! According to the new owner, Kelly Chien, “customers won’t notice any change at all- that’s the point.”
Vaughan Woodruff is the founder of Insource Renewables, a small solar business he established in his hometown of Pittsfield. Since becoming established, Vaughan has been fortunate to attract skilled and hardworking individuals who have shared in the responsibility of helping him run his business. With this luck, Vaughan realized his great responsibility to sustain the success of his company considering the larger community that has been unsuccessful in keeping quality jobs. As such converting to a worker cooperative was the best fit for Vaughan. As he put it, “in a region where attracting and retaining quality employees can be challenging, this business model softens the line between boss and employee in a manner that empowers all members of the company and promotes continuity. It allows us to build together rather than depend on a few individuals to bear the burden of returning prosperity to rural Maine.”
Having successfully guided both organizations through the conversion process, Rob Brown of CDI sums up the experience by saying, “Selling to employees is a great, time-tested way to preserve small businesses and the jobs they provide in rural communities. The business owner is rewarded for a lifetime of hard work, local control is preserved, and importantly, employees who have helped build the business now have an ownership stake in the business.” We couldn’t agree more! Whether it is maintaining the traditional look and feel of a small hardware store or embracing an innovate and future-focused solar business, cooperatives will always center the timeless values in rural communities.