October is Co-op Month

One way that Boston Building Resources is different from other home improvement retailers is that we are a co-op. Being a co-op has many advantages for both the company and our customers. BBR is also part of a newly formed association of co-ops: the Greater Boston Chamber of Cooperatives.

How is a co-op different from a small business?

A co-op (short for “cooperative”) has a distinctive organizational structure. Members, who may be employees, customers, or residents, collectively own the company and have a say in setting policy and handling financial issues. There are several different kinds of co-ops, including:

  • Consumer: a retail co-op owned by its customers. In addition to BBR, other consumer co-ops include outdoor equipment store REI, Harvest Co-op grocery store, and the startup Dorchester Community Food Co-op grocery.
  • Worker: a retail co-op owned by its employees (such as Red Sun Press, Equal Exchange, and King Arthur Flour).
  • Housing: a co-op of residential buildings where residents collectively set policies, make choices and contribute to maintenance (such as the Lucy Stone Cooperative and many others in Boston, which can be found here).
  • Producer: a co-op consisting of producers who work collectively to sell their products (such as Cabot Cheese and Ocean Spray Cranberries)

There are seven principles that define a co-op:

  1. Voluntary: Cooperatives consist of voluntary members and are open to any people who are willing to accept its terms, without discrimination.
  2. Democratic: Members control the cooperative, making business choices and forming policies.
  3. Economic: Members benefit economically in proportion to the business they conduct with the co-op, and capital is democratically controlled.
  4. Autonomy: Cooperatives function on their own, controlled by their own members, not by external forces.
  5. Education: Members of cooperatives are trained to be able to effectively work with and understand the cooperative.
  6. Cooperation: Cooperatives support and do business with other co-ops as much as possible.
  7. Community: Cooperatives work to benefit the larger community as well as their members' needs.

How members benefit

As a consumer co-op, Boston Building Resources is focused on serving and helping our members. Anybody can join BBR to become a member, and anybody (including those who are not members) can shop here. Making a profit is not the only priority; serving our members is the focus of the business. While larger, more traditional retailers have to consider the demands of their shareholders to generate dividends, co-ops such as BBR can directly address their customers’ needs without feeling the pressure of these other priorities. Furthermore, because BBR is a locally owned business, profits stay in the community rather than flowing to a faraway corporate headquarters.

BBR’s reuse center is a charitable nonprofit, also focusing on serving our community and allowing homeowners access to affordable, quality materials.