The New Leaf Co-op opened its doors on October 10th 2012. There had been a pre-existing wholefood shop called The New Leaf on Argyle place for many years already, but this sold mainly pre-packaged goods and was only in one room. We were all interested in worker-run, non-hierarchical structures, and so a co-operative seemed like a natural choice.
We started dreaming up the idea in around Feb 2012, and began a whirlwind journey of learning, planning, begging, borrowing, making and doing. We became a coherent group of five, and crowd-funded our start-up funds, receiving an amazing response from supportive friends, family and community members who chipped in amounts between £10 and £10,000 to help us reach our targets. We were overwhelmed with gratitude.
Our peanut butter grinder arrived from US Ebay with possibly the most expensive shipping in the history of electrical goods.
And then one sunny mid-morning in early October, about a month after the refit-o-rama began, a customer walked in and said ‘can I refill this? Are you open?’ and we said, ‘err, yeah… I guess so’ and thus TNLC became a reality. The original five members were Sophie, Neus, Will, Dee and Karen.
It’s difficult to tell the story of exactly when and how things changed and grew after that- it feels like we’ve been gradually developing all the time ever since. To give an idea of how different things are though: When we first opened, we didn’t have any basement shelving: things were just stacked on top of each other in a big pile. When big weekly orders came in, they’d stay piled up in the middle of the shop for days and customers would have to literally climb or jump over them. We didn’t have a stock list! We didn’t record our orders!
As time wore on, we became shopkeepers. We learned how to negotiate with suppliers, we learned what our customers wanted and needed from our shop and got to know them, and we’ve put in place lots and lots of systems to make sure that in this co-operative environment, we don’t over rely on information existing solely in individual’s heads.
We’ve tried to keep a commitment to strong ethics. We buy locally and promote organics as much as possible. We have an army of small suppliers, as we try to promote a diverse local economy. We support land rights movements, like the Zapatistas. On the other hand, we want to be accessible, to offer affordable staples (with some luxuries on top as well) and to be a shop which lots of different types of people can engage with.
So that’s it so far, but the story is still being written. Help us to write the next instalment!