Pie in the Sky Day

Today is Pi Day, 3.14… (The date sort of breaks down after the first two decimal points. It was fun in 2015 though…)

I had intended to make a vegetarian shepherd’s pie, but I hadn’t finished eating the potato, leek and fennel soup I made earlier in the week. So there wasn’t a great deal of incentive to make more food. Even though I could have frozen the pie and saved it for later. 

But then I got busy on other things. First, I had to shovel another foot of snow off of my walkway. Well, no, first, we all lost an hour to daylight savings time, and I lost about twenty minutes to changing all the clocks, much of which time was taken up in trying to get the enormous wall clock back on its hanger… Anyway… that done, I shoveled. It was windy and around 25°F, so being outside was not at all pleasant. More to the point, it is March! I should not be shoveling snow! So I was out there muttering imprecations on the weather and generally being scowly for a good forty minutes. Fortunately, it was a thorough work-out. So some benefit accrued.

However, as I was shoveling snow in the middle of March, I decided that the need for sympathetic magic might have hit critical. So, though I have no small people in my life and hold no great love of spring stuff, I spent the greater part of the afternoon digging out what remains of rabbits and eggs in my leftover kid’s bookstore decoration bins. My house is now more vernal than it’s been in years. If it works, you all can thank me. If it doesn’t, well, I tried.

So there is no shepherd’s pie. However, there is a pie-related thing. I have this idea that I’ve been turning over and over in my head, and the other day I finally gave voice to it — and was affronted when the person I was talking to called it ‘pie-in-the-sky’. So I want more opinions and maybe some advice. Mostly, I’d just like to know if this is a thing. Or — as I suspect it is not — could it be a thing?

Here’s the thing. My employers apparently want to move away from Vermont. (I don’t know why… it’s just a little snow…) There is a plan to do this soonish, and there is a subsidiary plan to pass on the store to my co-worker who has been working for them for about a decade. She does not feel at all good about running a business. However, I’ve done that… so I sort of said I’d back her up. At least to the point of creating the business plan and obtaining what financing is necessary. I don’t want to do anything other than what I am already doing in day-to-day operations, but I can get it going and give her advice.

The more I think on this, the more I sort of like the idea. I’ve always wanted a shop dedicated to local and seasonal living. My name for the calendar pieces on this blog — The Year Round — is taken from this nebulous dream that predates my bookstore. So enter greenhouse and farm-stand that will suddenly be without steering, and my plotting head went into overdrive.

Until it arrived at pie-in-the-sky. 

I don’t want to own a business again, so I was leaning toward an employee-owned B-corp structure. From there it was a short leap to a co-op venture. But then I started thinking about craft cooperatives. We already have crafters and artists and even a couple food vendors who sell on consignment. Another short leap made me wonder if this business could be a co-op venture for customers and vendors. This sounded particularly good for the farm and garden producers who don’t have much income in the first quarter. We could pay out dividends in the slow months when there is no produce and few plants to sell. It wouldn’t be much of a dividend, I’m sure, but it might be enough to pay a bill or two in those dead months. And, if we have membership buy-ins like most co-ops, then we might be able to sell with lower mark-ups, or maybe lower consignment-like percentage-on-sale for our vendors.

It all sounds like it could be great. Trouble is, I don’t think this exists. Apparently, at least one person thinks it’s silly fantasies, and I can find nothing on the state’s business licensing website that indicates how to make it happen… but that’s never stopped me before. So, are there people reading this who have knowledge and opinions on such things? Does this sound like a viable venture? And can someone help me make it so? Because I really think this sort of thing would be a useful business structure as we move deeper into economic chaos and have to localize many things.

Comments are open. If you have anything at all to say — even just a ‘you’re not crazy’ — I’d love to hear it.

However, if it is pie-in-the-sky, I probably need to hear that also… but I’d rather not…

©Elizabeth Anker 2022

3 thoughts on “Pie in the Sky Day”

  1. Does the person to whom the business is being handed over want to not have anything to do with it? If so, then I think your ideas sound fantastic and have great potential. Before leaping ahead though you will want to judge interest from the community to make sure they would want to be part of something like that. It might be you start off with a co-op first and then work it into what you want from there. But I’m not a business person so can only speculate. And of course, if the person the owners are giving the business to really wants to keep the business, you will need to work with them. If you do a co-op you will need a board of directors. Will it be a nonprofit co-op? If so you will need an Executive director to run the show. If for-profit then you will need a general manager. And I imagine even though you don’t want to own the business, you will need to be deeply involved for some time to shape it and get it off the ground. But I think it has exciting possibilities!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My co-worker is actually frightened of running the business, even after I pointed out that she’s been doing that. She’s young. There were tears… But she does want to grow into something that is more deeply embedded in this location; she’s from here and apparently related to half the people in central Vermont. She loves the idea of The Year Round because, obviously, she wants to have business flowing all year but also because she wants to do events and classes and all the sorts of things I did as a bookstore owner. And while we haven’t talked about structure, I did indicate that financing — and indeed grants and tax benefits, because we’re female — might be easier to come by with an employee owned or cooperative structure. So she’s totally down with all that, as much as she’s given it any thought… which is not much… because she is really not that kind of person. She runs the property management stuff and hardly wants to be in the building most days… I would probably be the board’s executive director and the building’s defacto manager because I have that experience. But I would still want her to be as face-forward for this business as she is willing to be while I remain in the background.

      And we have a couple years to make this transition work. There is a youngest child that wants to graduate here, though they have already bought a house elsewhere (after just moving into a new home here in VT last summer!)… So hopefully, they won’t up and take off next year. However, they are sort of flighty that way. We might have a garden center before we know what to do with it… I’m being prepared. Hopefully…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like this could really happen then! So very exciting. and if you have a garden center before being truly prepared, that’s ok because it could all still happen, the transition will just end up being a bit different. Good luck!

        Liked by 1 person

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