Despite the fact that the People’s Market offers some of the best and cheapest coffee on campus, along with a warm and welcoming atmosphere, the student cooperative has been working to improve its finances following a rough patch.
The People’s Market is a not-for-profit, student-run collective business founded in 1973 that aims to provide alternative, quality foods to the community. They are located in the Student Union at the University of Massachusetts and offer a variety of different foods, beverages and personal care products.
But the ongoing construction outside the Student Union seems to be the reason for the decline of customers at the People’s Market through the last year. The business seems to be blocked at every possible entrance, making it difficult for students to access the store.
“People want convenience. No one wants to walk an extra five minutes to get a coffee – it’s a tradeoff. Cheap prices or being late to class.” says Lynn Tran, one of People’s Market’s 18 co-managers, “Ultimately, people choose convenience.”
However, thanks to team effort and staff dedication to the establishment, the store has been on an upward trend since October. Members of the collective have been working hard to match the financial profits of years past, before the construction began.
Even though there is still a lot to do, the store has managed to recover due to increased advertising, a new credit/debit machine and other strategies. According to Tran, thanks to recent press, people are beginning to realize what an asset the business is to the campus, and consequently choose to go the extra mile to get there.
The co-managers of the student business are planning to create more food and product deals, as well as increase advertising in order to create awareness about what they have to offer and the impact they have on campus.
For the last couple of months, the business has been seeing new faces along with their daily costumers. Students such as Andres Patino have become aware of the food alternatives that the People’s Market has to offer.
“They have very cheap coffee and fantastic fruit drinks and snacks,” he said.
The staff at the People’s Market has a strong commitment to their customers, and they understand the importance of keeping them happy and offering the best service possible. The store offers local, fair trade and organic food at low price and supports local businesses such as Benson’s Bagels in Springfield, Henion Bakery in Amherst and local drink suppliers. Tran mentioned that one of their teas, “Good 4 U” is actually made by a former co-manager.
The People’s Market, being a non-profit organization, also donates one half of all tips to charity. The store has recently made a large donation to Food for Thought in Amherst and is currently in the process of making a donation to Safe Passage in Northampton for their annual Hot Chocolate Run.
The People’s Market is run by 18 UMass students, who make decisions through a democratic system, each having an equal amount of input for every decision that affects the establishment. Instead of being employees working for a salary, each co-manager has a stake in the business. For them, working at this store represents more than just a job.
“It is incredibly empowering, challenging; sometimes it makes you scream and kick, but at the end of the day you have a second home, a huge family and you’re part of something great on campus,” Tran said. “I always say working at People’s Market is so much greater than punching the time clock and it’s more than just ringing the cashier. We all learn valuable lessons that range from communication, team work and other practical skills in running a business.”
Cecilia Prado can be reached at [email protected]