What is the purpose of the association “les Amis de La Louve”?
- It was established to give us a temporary legal framework during the creation phase of our project, which will end with the opening of our cooperative supermarket, the Louve. An enormous amount of work awaits us, and there are all kinds of different jobs to divide up between ourselves. Already we’ve begun to assemble a wonderful team of volunteers.
What are the principles guiding the association’s work?
- The guiding principles of our association, and of our future supermarket, draw on the values of the cooperative movement and the 40-year history of the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn. We can find them in this document (French): http://www.cooplalouve.fr/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/LaLouve-Intro.pdf.
Who are the members of the association today?
- Tom Boothe and Brian Horihan, both Americans, initiated the project in 2010. They were joined in 2013 by more than 20 active members, and will soon welcome many more. All members are volunteers, their profiles and availability vary considerably, but they all share the same enthusiasm and adherence to the Louve’s cooperative values. Every month, members gather for a general meeting.
Can I become a member and how much does it cost?
- Yes, if you adhere to the guiding principles and are interested in this project, Les Amis de La Louve needs you! The membership fee is 25 euros per year. It allows you to start purchasing food immediately though the buying club, receive the internal newsletter, take part in the general meetings, or be part of a working group. You can also take part in the crowdfunding campaign on KissKissBankBank until December 2013!
How is the work organized?
- There are many different topics: funding, communication, the buying club, designing the future store, product research, outreach and recruitment, labeling, delivery, services in the shop… There are currently six working groups, coordinated by a steering committee. Some need additional help and others will be created as new members join.
Do I need to have specific skills to be an active member?
- All skills are welcome. We particularly need people with experience in distribution, tax and labour law, IT, as well as additional helpers for the buying club and for getting our temporary office space into shape. Some people come hoping to put their professional skills to use, but others come to do something completely different!
How will the supermarket be funded?
- We are currently seeking funding in order to open the Louve in June 2015. Funding sources include membership fees, gifts and contributions from fundraising events (through KissKissBankBank for instance) but also a necessary bank loan. Applications will be submitted to various organizations, banks and foundations by spring 2014. Once it’s off the ground, the supermarket aims simply to break even and will remain a non-profit organization.
What will we do with the money collected through KissKissBankBank ?
- We need to create a salaried position in order to carry out funding research and coordinate the work of volunteer members. We also need to design the interior of the store and to purchase all the necessary equipment for our temporary office in the 18th arrondissement. The more money we raise through your contributions, the more money we’ll be able to borrow from the bank. Having a significant amount of money in our treasury will help us inspire confidence in our lenders.
Can I be informed of the Louve’s activities without being a member ?
- Yes, it’s possible to be on a supporters mailing list. You will receive the public newsletter.
Do I have to join the association in order to participate in the Buying Club?
- Yes, the 25 euro yearly membership fee is mandatory.
Do I have to buy products to remain a member?
- No, the buying club is mostly a laboratory to test products and procedures. But your participation and ideas are very welcome. Give us advice to make the orders and distributions more practical, and don’t hesitate to suggest new products and producers!
What type of products are currently available?
- Until now, only non-perishable items and only first rate products: olive oil, coffee, dried beans, flour, pasta, beer and wine… Brian and the sourcing committee have started visiting farms in the Ile de France, and through the buying club, we are already offering a progressively expanding list of products and building solid relationships with producers.
Where and how are the products distributed?
- A transitional office for the buying club will soon be opened in the 18th arrondissement. It will need some work and we hope it will open in late November or early December 2013. From then on, it will be the meeting place to retrieve your products but also our headquarters for organizing tastings, meetings and conferences.
When will the supermarket open?
- We plan on opening in June 2015.
Where will it be located?
- The City of Paris and the 18th arrondissement have been extremely supportive of our project and have committed to helping us set up our store in a magnificent new space. Our initial field studies show that people in this neighborhood are interested and ready to get involved.
What products will I find there?
- The supermarket has to be a practical solution for everyone. It aims to be a one-stop shopping destination and so will sell the same range of food, household, and personal hygiene products found in any supermarket. The products will represent the needs of the families in the neighborhood, taking into account both culinary and budgetary factors. Our product range will represent needs identified in local field studies and member surveys, and will be determined through the participation of members in the working groups.
Will all the products be organic?
- The products will be as organic as possible. But their selection will be the result of a more complex equation that takes into account the availability of a product, its production costs and membership demand. The only firm decision so far is to ban GMOs and several chemical additives. General Meetings will be the place to debate and vote on these types of issues.
Will all the products be local or seasonal?
- Product freshness and a dedication to sourcing local food are among the Louve’s guiding principles. But production costs and the impossibility of sourcing everything we eat in the Paris region are obvious limiting factors. Imported products such as tropical fruit will for instance be sold in the shop, and supply chains for such products will be studied with particular attention.
Will I really find such low prices for such great food?
- Park Slope members do 75% of the work in the store. This system is what distinguishes the PSFC from most other food co-ops and allows it to maintain low prices for its members while at the same time paying fair prices to its suppliers. The Louve is following exactly the same model.
Will I have to invest money to be a member of the Coop?
- We haven’t finalized all the rules so far, but if we follow the Park Slope Food Coop’s example, a one-time 100 Euro membership investment will be required upon joining. This investment may be refunded in full if a member decides, for whatever reason, to leave the co-op. For people living on low incomes, the membership investment may be reduced just as it is at the PSFC, though such details have yet to be worked out.
What will I gain from being a member of the Coop?
- First, you’ll have the right (and, to be honest, the obligation) to work there! What makes La Louve different from most other co-ops is that members do almost all the work necessary to keep the store running. Only 25% of the total labor is done by full-time staff. Doing one shift every 4 weeks allows you access to the store, but it also lets you participate in general meetings and so gives you a say in the way the shore is run. By joining, the store becomes yours.
How long are the work shifts?
- At the Park Slope Food Coop, each shift is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. Each member does one shift every four weeks. While the length of our shifts will depend on the number of members we have, our operating hours, our product range and the services we want to provide, it is likely to be very close to 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Is it legal in France to use volunteer labor like they do in Brooklyn?
- Good question! We spent over two years navigating this rather unexplored, murky legal territory, trying to find a clear answer. The answer obtained by Marco, captain of the Louve’s legal working group, is positive. The Louve fits very neatly into the Social Economy sector, which is currently experiencing a kind of renaissance in France, and the legal kinks are being worked out as we speak. La Louve is a model for a new way of consuming and producing, one that is winning great support from public officials and institutions.
Do I absolutely have to work there in order to be able to shop?
- I’m afraid you do. At the Louve, nobody gets out of working. This isn’t your normal supermarket, and everyone has to demonstrate a certain level of commitment and regular involvement. But, on the bright side, the Louve represents a new model for society! We will of course be sensitive to particular cases and will make the necessary adjustments or exeptions. But we’re convinced that members will quickly learn to love the special atmosphere that comes about by working together in such an unusual context to achieve a common goal.
As a volunteer, aren’t I stealing someone else’s paid work?
- We’ve asked ourselves the same question… The answer is no. First, because there are very few small shops in the neighborhood where we’ll be setting up the cooperative. Secondly, because, even if most of the work in the store will be accomplished by volunteer labor, the Louve will have a positive effect further up and down the supply chain, providing more work and paying fairer prices to local producers, stimulating the creation of transportation cooperatives, recycling and composting facilities, and whatever else we can imagine.
Which gifts will I receive if I don’t speak French?
- We’ve tried to make it as simple as possible. If you live in Paris, you’ll receive the same gifts as listed in the French version of this campaign. If it’s not clear, please don’t hesitate to contact us. If you don’t live in France, we have a special set of gifts planned for you, which you’ll find described in the English version of this campaign, along with those we’ll be offering to anyone who lives in or can come to Paris soon.
How will I receive my gifts?
- If you live in Paris or plan on passing through after the campaign has ended, please come by our office (starting in December). The address will be published on our website in the coming months.
If you live abroad, please go to the English rewards page for more details. In any case, you’re always welcome to stop by our office!
When will I receive my gifts?
- If you’ll be receiving a free buying club membership for 2014, the starting date is January 1. For gifts related to the future supermarket (your name on a shopping cart or basket…), you’ll have to be a little more patient. But rest assured that by helping out now, your contribution will allow us to open our doors as planned in 2015!
If you’ve generously chosen to make a contribution of either 1000€ or 2000€, the tasting events that you’ll be invited to attend as an expression of our thanks will be planned directly with you, after the campaign has ended, in order to determine a time and date that works for everyone involved.