Cafe Zippy owner wants to ‘make things happen’ with co-op idea

Think of a co-op, and REI might come to mind. The outdoor gear retailer is a huge consumer cooperative. In Everett, the Sno-Isle Natural Foods Co-op sells organic groceries to hundreds of members. Now, a local coffee shop is working to become a cooperative business.

Marilyn Rosenberg opened Cafe Zippy in downtown Everett in 2005. Since November, Rosenberg and a planning group have been meeting to explore turning the cafe named for its owner’s Dalmatian into a co-op. Cafe Zippy, which in its early years was on Hewitt Avenue, is now at 2811 Wetmore Ave., across from Trinity Lutheran College.

Already a gathering place, it hosts live music, poetry events, raw-food classes and game nights. Rosenberg hopes to involve more people, expand Zippy’s mission and perhaps work fewer hours than she does now.

“We’re hoping it’s going to open a lot of doors and make things happen,” said Rosenberg, 50, who lives in Everett. “We did research on many kinds of cooperatives — businesses owned and run by their members,” she said.

One idea is using the cafe as a mentoring and training center for at-risk young people.

Becoming a cooperative can be a long process, and an expensive one. There are legal fees related to filing articles of incorporation and creating bylaws.

On Feb. 28, Cafe Zippy will host a fundraising event to help cover some costs. And 20 percent of money raised at the 5-8 p.m. event will be split between the YMCA Minority Achievers Program and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Snohomish County.

Rosenberg has met with Teresa Young, organizational development specialist with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center. The Olympia-based nonprofit works to spur economic development in communities through the cooperative business model.

“It allows people to sometimes come together to do something they can’t do on their own,” said Young, who has visited Cafe Zippy.

Young said the Northwest Cooperative Development Center has worked with mobile home owners who have formed cooperatives to buy land. She has also seen small co-ops, including an Olympia clothing store that came under employee ownership and a cafe in Oregon.

“We’re seeing more and more of this,” said Young, adding that over time an employee-owned business often sees higher wages.

“With Zippy’s, they’re in the exploration mode,” Young said.

Forrest Hawes, of Granite Falls, is a founding member of the steering committee that is planning what could become the Zippy’s Cooperative Association. He has been involved in organizing a technology cooperative in Everett and Seattle.

The idea for Zippy’s would be a cooperative with “multiple stakeholders,” Hawes said. Along with owners and customers, those could include local farmers who provide the cafe’s food, and musicians who perform at Zippy’s.

“A cooperative is a serious type of business,” Hawes said. Farmers are often part of a cooperative, and may share equipment or storage facilities. A consumer member of Zippy’s might receive a dividend based on patronage, he said.

That reminds me, on a recent Saturday night I had coffee at Zippy’s. I had gone to see the movie “7 Minutes,” which was filmed in Snohomish County, in a special showing at the Historic Everett Theatre. I bought my ticket a bit early, and went to find coffee before the 7:30 p.m. showing.

The Starbucks on Colby Avenue was locked up tight. I didn’t need dinner, and certainly didn’t want to walk into a downtown bar. Zippy’s was the only spot I could find open within walking distance of the theater — at 6:45 on a Saturday night.

Everett needs a lot before its downtown is a welcoming place after the work-day crowd goes home. I’m all for anything that makes downtown more lively.

Rosenberg sees great possibilities in a Cafe Zippy co-op.

“We’re not sure how it’s going to grow, but I’m really excited for this,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Zippy event

“For the Love of Our Community,” a fundraising event with food, a silent auction and a film, is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. Feb. 28 at Cafe Zippy, 2811 Wetmore Ave., Everett. Money raised will help the coffee shop become a cooperative business. And 20 percent of proceeds will be shared by YMCA Minority Achievers Program and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Snohomish County. Tickets $10 in advance, $13 at the door. A $20 specialty dinner (quantity limited) or regular menu items will be available. “The Mystery of Love,” a PBS documentary, will be shown at 6 p.m. Tickets: http://zippycommunity.bpt.me

Information: www.cafezippy.com

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