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BriarPatch raises base rate of pay for employees

Submitted to The Union

As part of BriarPatch Food Co-op’s ongoing commitment to creating an equitable, kind and respectful workplace for its employees, on Jan. 1 the natural foods grocery cooperative raised its base rate of pay for employees by $1.50, from $13.50 to $15, above the 2021 California state minimum wage of $14 per hour.

BriarPatch is a major employer in Nevada County, in the top 25 major employers, based on labor market information published by the State of California’s Employment Development Department (EDD). Employing upwards of 224 people, BriarPatch is the only locally and cooperatively-owned grocery store on the list.

In the same spirit as the pay increase, an employee discount will increase from 15 to 20% for all items and 30% for wellness supplements. As with previous wage scale adjustments, the co-op is also adjusting earnings for employees who earn more than the base wage.

BriarPatch has an open door to leadership and it is not uncommon for employees to “climb the ladder” and grow a career at the co-op. In the last year, five employees were promoted to management positions. There are many positions available when it comes to creating viable career opportunities at BriarPatch, especially with a second store in Auburn scheduled to open in mid-2022.

In addition to providing a wage above the state minimum, employees receive paid time off, competitive health benefits, co-op ownership, and a matching 401k. Other employee incentives include quarterly profit share, a monthly $50 raffle for those who choose alternative transportation (carpool, walk or bike to work), holiday gifts and an annual employee party. During 2020, store employees regularly received “Hero Pay” —$1 more per hour — to help offset the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Communication and transparency remain a top priority at The Co-op. General Manager Chris Maher is regularly seen making the rounds and connecting with staff members. The Human Resources Department keeps the team informed via a staff newsletter, regular emails and safety updates. In annual employee surveys and exit interviews, a positive work culture is sited as a top reason why people love and recommend working at BriarPatch. The co-op staff also participates in Open Book Management, a system that allows them to see and learn about the co-op’s finances and to influence the results.

The 44-year-old food cooperative has strong roots in Grass Valley, where it has grown from a small buyers club to its current 10,000 member-owner base. At a time when many segments of the economy are struggling, annual sales at BriarPatch now top $35 million.

Cooperatives are owned and democratically controlled by their members, who use the co-op’s services or buy its goods, not by outside investors. Co-op owners elect a board of directors from within their membership.

BriarPatch Food Co-op is known for providing high quality organic, local and sustainably produced food for the community and supporting local farmers and area nonprofits. Public perception of BriarPatch staff is overwhelmingly positive with many observing the work environment as a fun, welcoming and friendly place to work and shop.

BriarPatch is scheduled to open a second location in Auburn in mid-2022. The future store will be located in the former Kmart property lat 2505 Bell Road, within the Highway 49 corridor. It is estimated the new store will provide 150 to 170 new jobs.

Learn more about BriarPatch employee opportunities, visit https://www.briarpatch.coop/careers.


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