This weekend, renowned cooperative market consultant Bill Gessner will lead the East Aurora Co-op Board of Directors, committee members, volunteers and other key individuals through an intense two-day strategic planning session. Lead consultant for Cooperative Development Services in Minnesota, Gessner has more than 20 years of experience assisting 250-plus co-op expansion projects. His primary focus is assisting food co-ops in the planning and implementation of expansion, relocation, and new store projects through a systematic approach that includes assessing feasibility and timeline management. He said, “I continue to be inspired by the people I work with in the food co-ops and their communities. What excites me is combining the business and community aspects of the cooperative model to help co-ops develop and grow.”

EA Co-op President Sheila Conboy said, “We recently won a $10,000 grant that stipulated the funds be used for board development.” We’re at a critical juncture and now is the time for us to call on Bill’s expertise, which includes implementing new store projects like ours.”

The East Aurora Co-op is steadily progressing through the Four Cornerstone-Three Stages of development, a methodical process of co-op development. The strategies that come out of this weekend will further bolster the plan and provide answers to questions on site selection, fundraising and other key components. “Our member-ownership is nearing 600, which is one of the milestones put forth in the Four Cornerstone plan,” Conboy said. “We’ve narrowed down our search for a location in East Aurora, and once that is secured, we’ll be that much closer to opening the doors.”

Gessner has helped countless co-ops reach their goals, including the Lexington Co-op in Buffalo. Tim Bartlett, general manager of Lexington, said, “Bill Gessner’s coaching has been critical to the success of both our expansion project and our growth from a $1 million to an $8 million co-op. From our quarterly work plans to our weekly sales report, nearly every effective management system we have grew out of our work with Bill Gessner.”

The board is meeting Saturday, Sept.17, from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in the Synergy offices, and on Sunday, Sept. 18, from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in the Aurora Senior Center.

CDS Co-op consultant Bill Gessner