Beatriz Ortiz and Julio Chavez worked intently Thursday in a commercial kitchen in Richmond, preparing for the next day's farmers market near City Hall.They cooked up soups, empanadas, prepared sandwiches and tossed up their now-popular "massaged kale salad."Their new co-op, Liberty Ship Café, launched Jan. 13 and is open for business every Friday at the farmers market, giving visitors choices beyond a local fried chicken outlet and a hot dog stand. It also has a delivery business.
It's the first co-op to open in the city under the guidance of a UC Davis nonprofit that has established two "co-op business incubators," one in Richmond and the other in Lompoc, near Santa Barbara.If Richmond officials have their way, the cafe will be the first of many worker cooperatives -- in which each member has a voice and all share in the profits -- that help stimulate the local economy in the years ahead. The city has even hired a co-op coordinator to help lead the effort.
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin was dazzled with the concept during a 2010 visit to the world's most famous worker cooperative in Spain."There are three benefits to co-ops," Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said. "Job creation, democracy in the workplace and local wealth building."The initial response to Liberty Ship Café has been positive, said Lexi Hudson, a co-op specialist with the Davis-based California Center for Cooperative Development.She works side-by-side with Ortiz and Chavez, and they spent a year "incubating" the concept. One key goal is keeping prices affordable, Hudson said. "We emphasize that we're here for the community, and we want to offer healthy food."