Last June, 42 employees of four businesses on tiny Deer Isle in Hancock County took ownership into their own hands.
They formed Island Employee Cooperative Inc., and bought the two grocery stores, a variety/hardware store and a pharmacy that made up a business that had been owned by the Seile family for 42 years, a $5.6 million acquisition.
As the worker cooperative nears its first anniversary, profits have matched what the previous owners accomplished in their best year, but it wasn’t easy.
Initially, when Vernon Seile approached his department heads about it, the response was “Where do we sign?” said Alan White, president of the cooperative board and meat manager at Burnt Cove Market, one of the four businesses. “We had ideas of grandeur.”
The story of that conversion, which was recognized in a Denver conference earlier in the week as the largest in the nation in terms of both employees and dollars, was told Saturday morning at the Viles Arboretum in Augusta as part of the second annual Principle Six Conference.