How did the Gimme! Cooperative get started?
Gimme! Coffee was established in Ithaca, NY in 2000 during the early boom of the third-wave, specialty coffee industry. 20 years years later, Gimme employees began the process of buying the business from its original founder and owner. It took 2 years during the COVID-19 pandemic to organize a new governance and management structure, but in July 2022 over 30 of Gimme’s employees became founding owners of the Gimme! Coffee Cooperative.
What is your approach to sourcing?
The foundation of our coffee program is the intersection between Direct Trade and Fairtrade sourcing. We are certified with the Fairtrade International standard because it provides a monetary safety net for coffee cooperatives, offsets the power disparity between multinational buyers in the global north and smallholder farmers in the global south, and emphasizes the importance of democratic, cooperative governance. Direct Trade platforms build long-term relationships with producers, and structure purchasing strategies around coffee quality.
The overall goal for our sourcing is to contribute to a dignified livelihood for smallholder producers by paying prices that cover cost of production and support a living income.
Tell us more about becoming one of the largest worker-owned co-ops in the US.
This took a lot of hard work and dedication! We had a ten-person transition team, a group of employees who spent some of their time building knowledge and skills for running a cooperative, coming up with proposals about how to run the cooperative, and presenting those proposals to other interested employees.
Why was becoming a Certified Living Wage employer important to you?
Right thing to do for our staff - important that people can learn and grow with the company and think of this as a long-term job if they want to Gives us a pathway to improve jobs and benefits at Gimme - we're required to move from Tier I to Tier II certification, or from an individual living wage to a family living wage. Living Wage for Us, our certifier, helps us to understand benefits and services - for example, they told us that childcare is exceptionally expensive in our area, and then explained how we could set up a dependent care FSA to give employees tax-free money for childcare.
Tell us more about your local community?
Ithaca is a thriving college town, with Cornell University and Ithaca College students blending with locals that have deep roots in the social justice movements of the 60’s and 70’s. There’s great appreciation, support, and love of all things local, especially foods, farms, and music. It’s also got that great Upstate NY / New England-y vibe of strong wills and stubborn independence that keeps us unique and helps us get through these winters!
What are you most excited for in 2023?
As a newly formed cooperative, we’re just starting to define what that means for us as a company. We have so many amazing changes all happening at once; it’s like we get to go back out into the world post-Covid as a new company, but with so many great people, experiences, and support systems already here to help see it through. We can’t wait!