I wish I had more time with the Federation, but it was a great 75 minutes. The headquarters was a modern, 7-story building, one of the largest in town. It was part of a cluster of co-op buildings, including Phoenix (banking tech), Casse Centrale HQ, Ascot (mystery co-op) and several others. The dress code was surprisingly causal, although I guess my surprise came from all the senior managers at the conference who were wearing suits. I had a meeting with Marina, who is in communication, and Eddy the numbers guy. It turns out that about a tenth of province’s work force is in the co-op sector.
After the meeting, I hiked over to the Co-op Superstore (insert fanfare). It was in the less-cute part of town, past a military installation complete with guard tower overlooking the street, and some run down modern apartments (I was wondering where those were hidden). The store itself was tucked underneath a public health complex, and didn’t look like much from the outside.
But holy smokes, it was quite a co-op! Everything about it was huge: miles of cheese and cured meats, a half-dozen different deli/bakery/butcher counters (no spoons though), and quite a lot of non-food products. They had small appliances, electronics, music and movies, and a modest clothing section. I took pictures until someone told me to stop, apparently mistaking me for a corporate spy from Orveo (their only serious competition).
I got a lot of information but it was also maddening. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg and I would love to stay and study for a long time. But on the bright side, now I’ve got contacts. There’s nothing like having a face attached to the names to facilitate ongoing flow of information, and now the spigot is open. Next year I have a study tour to the Basque country in Spain, so I am already scheming my return.
PS: I am now in Munich, just in time for a major soccer game that has football hooligans out on the town. I’m not sure I’ll elaborate on that, unless they get really cooperative during the brawls. I’m expecting a cultural experience.