I think my favorite description of the event was, "It was like a business was getting married" (read Mara Zepeda's wonderful blog at: http://neithersnow.squarespace.com/).
Indeed it felt that way. Presided over by Sustainable Business Network Executive Director Leanne Kreuger-Braneky, Philadelphia visionary Judy Wicks, and author of "The Companies We Keep" John Abrams, we indeed tied the knot April 29th, 2011.
To say there was no drama would be a lie - last minute negotiations regarding who would be included in the cooperative, discussions over who would sign governing principles, who would be recognized and how. And the weather - under serious historical skies, as Sharon Olds would say, clouds gray and moving at fast clips above us - made no promises to anyone.
But, as always, we persevered. We built up the timber frame that Samir and others had fashioned for the Kensington Compost Co-op, and threw together a stage made of railroad ties and bowling alley. City Planter was kind enough to let us borrow two plants, and Caleb slammed together a planter in two hours, and scrounged up two baby tomato plants.
And when people arrived, we had local venison carbonade stew from a deer my cousin and I got onhand, an IPA I had brewed with surprising success, along with Niko's mother's Albanian delicacies, Jon's cookies, Dan and Lindsey's goat cheese and strawberry and baguette slices, sausage Dave provided from DiBruno's, spicy cod stew from Otolith - I swear we should drop this whole carpentry facade and just go into sustainable party planning.
John Abrams had flown in under his own steam from Martha's Vineyard, leaving early that morning. He rented a car from the airport, and suddenly, there he was, on Fourth Street, in front of Greenable. The whole thing had a dreamlike quality. I gave him a quick tour around, and he immediately ingratiated himself with the guys and was off and running. I changed from carpentry clothes into a nice white shirt, and promptly got beet juice on it. Awesome. The show must go on.
With the gate open, people situated on makeshift benches, ivy thick over the brick wall and the cobblestones of dead-end Lawrence street making it difficult for chairs to get firm footing, we began.
Leanne - looking stunning in her tall boots - spoke beautifully and persuasively about the importance of cooperatives, and the role an organization such as SBN plays in their formation. She spoke of the breakfast she and Kate and Jen had hosted, inviting Cleveland Ted Howard to speak on sustainable urban development and the role co-ops play within - and how such an event would not have been possible were it not for the larger cooperative movement.
Judy followed, addressing how the cooperative movement represented the avant-garde of sustainable business. She spoke of BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), an organization founded, and how cooperatives play a necessary part in these communities. As always, she brought a warmth and effervescence, reflecting on her own process starting the trailblazing business of White Dog. She had, as you can see, Josephine, daughter of Tracy and Mia Levesque, at rapt attention below (not to mention John and Leanne).
Finally, John wrapped up the talking, with a speech peppered with amusing and instructive stories. The one that stands out in my mind now is the story of his friend in Massachusetts, driving late at night around and around a roundabout with her friends. At a certain point, they decided it make a lot of sense to go backwards, so around and around they went, backwards - and suddenly hit another car that was, of course, negotiating the turn.
The cops came, and checked out the car behind them first. Then he came over to their window, and asked if they had been drinking. Indeed they had - but denied any alcohol involved.
"Well, it's a good thing, because the guy behind you is so drunk he's saying you backed into him."
This an example of taking nothing for granted, and not knowing necessarily how you will go from here to there. But one way or another, you will make it.
Finally, we got around to signing our governing principles - written in large part by the Penn legal team - Jessica, Sam, and Praveen. We were editing up to the last minute - "which" or "that" - and does it make sense to have that clause in there? I can't tell you how nice it is to work at a company filled with people who care about grammar and spelling.
Finally, we read the governing principles, and, one by one, folks came up and signed the paper. Truth be told, we had printed the principles on glossy paper, and the pen really didn't take. But no one let on.
The dog, a trooper through this whole experience, finally had had enough. And then, right at the end, a ray of light came down - just before the rain started and we moved inside.
So while we still have steps to take - indeed this is only the beginning - the co-op opening was a truly uplifting experience. As John said, it was a glimmer of hope, a small point of resistance, a bunch of folks getting together and doing the right thing. I'm proud to be a part of it - and look forward to seeing what it will bring as it continues to develop.