“I‘ve all ways wanted to be an Anarchist Baker” whispered Nancy Dick as she left the information session with The Grain Exchange Cooperative and Tim Hewitt, co-op developer with the Arizmendi Association of Co-ops.
Nancy was one of a dozen people who showed up to learn about the possibility of a worker-owned artisan bakery in Calgary, based on the Arizmendi model. And to be clear worker co-ops are not anarchist, but they are a model of worker owned and operated business which are not mainstream and based on different values. Check out the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation for an introduction to worker co-ops.
The Arizmendi Association of Co-ops is the mother ship for six worker-owned and operated co-op bakeries in the San Francisco Bay Area. What started as one worker co-operative called The Cheese Board, has been successfully replicated five times.
As the first co-op reached the point of being profitable it began putting aside a portion of its retained earnings for the development of the next co-op. Seasoned worker members from the original co-op launched the new co-op by being part of the team of the new bakery, ensuring the secrets of excellent baking and running a successful co-op were passed on.
Lawrence Verlan, who was also in attendance at the information session was totally pumped by what he described as ‘this sour dough method of growing business’. He sees it as sure-fire way to take all that is best about the culture of the original co-op to ensure the new businesses are successful. Interestingly enough both the Arizmendi and The Grain Exchange pizza’s start with a sour dough crust.
In Calgary, unlike in San Francisco where this model started with The Cheeseboard, a highly successful private business that converted to a worker co-op when the owners retired, The Grain Exchange, a worker co-op bakery, is starting from scratch.
With enthusiastic support from the Arizmendi Association, Greg O’ Neill and Peter Driftmier are working hard to bring this model to Calgary.
Intrigued? Want to get Involved??
The Grain Exchange worker co-op is securing financing and negotiating possible lease opportunities for their first bakery. They are looking for eight individuals with Bakery and Kitchen skills who are interested in being member owners of this new Bakery co-op. If you are interested send your resume to TheGrainExhange@candianworker.coop.
When NewScoop asked Tim where The Grain Exchange Cooperative would be in five years – in the best of all possible worlds – he said they would be opening their second bakery which would be the ‘go to resource’ for worker owned bakery co-ops across Canada.
Secret Anarchist Bakers your time is now!
For more information about the Arizmendi co-op business model check out this short video.