OXFORD – At Oxford City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, June 21, Moon Cooperative Services, Inc.’s loan with the city was extended for another year and — loan payments were increased to $1,000 per month.
Moon Cooperative Services Inc., called simply Moon (Miami Oxford Organic Network) Co-Op, is an Oxford-based cooperative grocery store that seeks to connect consumers with locally sourced goods.
In 2011 Moon, already a concept with shareholders and customers, applied for the Oxford Community Improvement Corporation Loan. This loan fund is meant to help new and expanding businesses. The funding Moon has is a combination of the loan, membership loans, and commercial loans.
“The city loan was pivotal, essential, it was a lot of money, but the owners are still the majority investors,” Moon Board member Bernadette Unger said.
Moon’s is the biggest loan the city has financed. Alan Kyger, Economic Development Director for the City of Oxford, added, “Ironically, Moon originally asked for a 10-year loan, but our board didn’t really want to go to 10 years, so they did a 5-year loan. Well ironically, last year we renegotiated to a 10-year loan.”
Moon started out paying only interest on their loan, but after renegotiation, they began paying principal as well. The remaining loan is now down to roughly $201,000. At the end of the year, Moon was supposed to start making full payments, but as they aren’t quite where they hoped to be financially, paying the full cost wasn’t possible.
The city doesn’t want to see this business fail, so they renegotiated the payments to $1,000 per month.
Despite the constant renegotiation, according to officials, Moon has never been late on a single payment.
Moon Co-op is a full cooperative, and as such it does not have one singular owner, but instead, many. In fact, if one buys a membership to Moon, one is actually buying ownership. If Moon Co-op fails, because it doesn’t have a singular owner, the only collateral the city will receive is the equipment Moon has purchased. Normally collateral would be significant, like the owner’s house or car, but that is not possible in this case. The City of Oxford would then auction the equipment for pennies on the dollar.
The city wants to work with Moon as much as possible to make sure they succeed, because they believe in the purpose of the Co-op.
Moon Co-Op is all about supporting local farmers. One of those farmers is Debra Bowles, a seventh-generation goat farmer. She sells her goat milk soap at Moon. Her grandmother’s poison ivy recipe is a big hit with locals. Apparently, it can prevent poison ivy if caught early enough. If not, the soap will dry out the outbreak and stop the itching. She has other conceits that are unique to Moon, including putting a glass moon in the middle of some of her soaps.
Moon is always open to getting new farmers featured in their store. They’re concerned, because farmers cannot get their goods featured in other grocery stores. It is too big of a hassle and costs too much money for the farms. Moon tries to make the process easy. Getting goods featured in the store is a simple process — a person just has to contact the store and work with the staff. They will interview a candidate on their practices, availability, and values. If it’s a good fit, then all they have to do is drop their product off.
Not only does Moon believe in featuring local farmers, but one of their core values is treating animals in a way they deem humane.
Unger explained, “We only deal with dairies that treat their animals well. All of our milk is from pasture-raised cows — it’s really rare in dairy production.” She explained that the vitamins the cows naturally consume, from the grass and sun, transfer into their milk and then into the consumer. She added, “It’s like the staff is doing your homework for you, so you know if you get something here, it’s really going to be good.”
While Moon features food that is vegan and organic, anyone can shop there. One does not have to be a Co-op owner (member) to shop. When you buy an owner share to Moon, you get to be a part of the movement, but you also get significant discounts. One particular discount is that every full moon an owner gets 10 percent off everything they buy. Members can also run for the board of directors.
Moon’s board tries to make Moon accessible to everyone.
“Our prices, we try to keep as low as possible, competitive. You can come here and shop the basics program, the bulk food section. The 10 percent every month sale,” Unger explained. “You can shop very competitively here for good food.”
Moon’s board identified 40 kitchen staples (rice, oatmeal, milk, butter, etc.) and discounted them, creating the “basics” program. They also accept SNAP.
Unger said she believes it is best to buy the basics of high quality at Moon and substitute with food bought at other grocery stores. She explained, many customers claim to be satisfied with less, when shopping at Moon. It is, however, still a full-service grocery store which houses a little bit of everything.