Greenbelt Cooperative Inc., a 40-year-old cooperative enterprise that suffered through eight years of losses in the 1970s, has turned the corner and expects to pay a dividend at the end of the current fiscal year.
The company, which operates four Co-op supermarkets, six auto service centers in the metropolitan area and the Scan furniture stores, "has succeeded in eliminating its deficit and restoring the value" of its stock, president Roy L. Bryant said.
Provided the company's audited net earnings for the year ending Jan. 26 total more than $300,000, the co-op will pay a dividend of 8 percent, its first in many years. Unaudited financial statements already show net earnings higher than that, said Bryant.
"From 1971 on, we went through some pretty tough years," said Dorothy Jacobson, vice chairman of the board of the Greenbelt, Md. based cooperative. "Since then we've been struggling very hard to turn it around," she said.
At one time, the Greenbelt cooperative was made up of 22 supermarkets, five pharmacies, ten gasoline stations and the Scan stores. By 1977 that had been pared down to 12 grocery stores, seven gas stations and Scan.
"We tried to eliminate the losing operations that we couldn't rehabilitate," said Jacobson. Three years ago the co-op hired Bryant, who was then cheif executive officer of the Berkeley, Calif. Consumer Cooperative, the largest cooperative on the west coast.
It has been Bryant who has substantially contributed to making the operation profitable, said Jacobson. Among other actions, the co-op has consolidated purchasing and eliminated administrative positions as cost-cutting measures, she said.
Greenbelt is owned and controlled by its members who now number approximately 11,000 from a previous high of 40,000. Under law, the co-op is limited to paying 8 percent dividends, said Jacobson. Members also may obtain a discount on service station purchases, and may also get a patronage refund -- a cash payment in proportion to purchases.
The co-operative formerly paid such refunds and may resume them next year, Jacobson indicated. She also said the cooperative's management has been soliciting information from members about what services members think the company should provide.
The Greenbelt Cooperative grew out of a merger of several smaller cooperatives that were organized in the Washington area during the Depression.
"People don't buy stock in a co-op to make money," said Jacobson. Although there is potential for return on investment in the limited dividends, refunds and discounts, more people join because "they're interested in the cooperative ideal and interested in the kind of quality control" that a cooperative may offer, she said.