Today in the National Co-op Month series, the focus is on Olympia’s second oldest active worker cooperative.
The New Moon Café converted to a worker-owned organization in August, 2013. The sale was financed though member equity and the previous owner. In a local paper, one of the founders, Micheal Snow, stated, “We don’t want to be just dishwashers or servers, because we have so much more to offer.” The concept of meaningful work, to me, is about how people are engaged as opposed to what people are doing. Working in the service industry doesn’t have to be a life of drudgery, if the workers have the opportunities to engage as owners.
Many of the founders came out of their experience at The Flaming Eggplant, a collectively-managed student café at The Evergreen State College. The initial group of 14 people organized under the banner of Black Moon Collective and initial ideas of the group saw the New Moon Café as the beginning of a larger movement.
In many ways, they have: members of New Moon spun off to start Business Services Co-op and Northwest Construction Co-op. One of New Moon’s founders worked with me at NWCDC for a couple of years (before joining BSC) and helped another business in Olympia convert to a collective as well.
Sometimes in the co-op development world, we get a bit hung up on “scale”. If something can’t scale up quickly, it doesn’t seem as exciting. For myself, I see the changing of our economy as a long-term process. Taking the time to build co-ops from the ground up, rooted in values and principles, provides the foundation for other businesses. People saw the success of New Moon and it led to other ventures. Now Olympia has the capacity to create a network of these co-ops to further assist development and provide shared resources.
I like to think of it as the Olympia Model (as opposed to the Cleveland Model). Slow and steady co-ops in different sectors building a foundation for networking among the co-ops and providing support for others looking to convert or start out from scratch.