With the help of the community it serves and the community it represents, the Clintonville Community Market has gone through some major changes and upgrades in the past year, according to general manager Gabriel Sturgess.

With the help of the community it serves and the community it represents, the Clintonville Community Market has gone through some major changes and upgrades in the past year, according to general manager Gabriel Sturgess.

In that period of time, a new management team has taken over the market that opened on July 21, 1997. In addition, the market at 200 Crestview Road is now a union shop and a new "point of sale system," with scanners similar to those of chain stores, has been introduced.

The latter, according to Sturgess, largely was funded by customers as well as through the help of the Cooperative Grocers' Information Network, a California-based membership organization "founded to support the growth and development of food co-ops," according to its Web site.

"With the times things change," Sturgess said last week. "As business grows, management grows and employees grow and businesses change."

Sturgess, a Clintonville Community Market customer for a decade and an employee for the past year, said that the 3,000-square-foot operation, with an average of $2.5-million a year in sales, could have faced a whopping bill of $45,000 to put in place a system that reads bar codes.

It was deemed a necessary step by the democratically managed seven-member board and management team, according to Sturgess, but that figure was way out of line with what the operation could afford.

"A couple years back the store outgrew your typical cash register," he wrote in an e-mail. "As we are a community owned store focused on people and products, not profit, there was not a budget in place for the upgrade.

"The first thing market representatives did was start a fund drive. Obviously the community recognized this needed upgrade as the market raised over $9,000. Nine grand was good, but not enough. We explored other options."

Those other options included turning to what might be called the cooperative's cooperative, the CGIN.

"Basically we leaned on this network for guidance," Sturgess said.

Through list-serves maintained by the organization, the Clintonville Community Market was able to combine free software along with a mixture of new and used equipment to obtain a scanning system for around $10,000.

"The interesting part is that the community paid for 90 percent of this project through donations," Sturgess wrote.

The benefits to customers, employees and store operations are significant, he said in an interview.

"Not only does it get our customers in and out quicker, but it's less stress on our cashiers and we're able to track inventory, find out what we need to stock," Sturgess said. "It's really a big move on our part to understand our business more quickly.

"And waiting in line. Who likes to wait in line, you know?"

Organization of Clintonville Community Market employees into Local 1059 of the United Food and Commercial Workers began in October 2007, according to an article by Erin Publow, the store's shop steward, in the union's newsletter. The contract was ratified about a year ago.

"We feel that cooperatives and unions are natural allies," Publow wrote. "Now that the CCM workers' rights are protected by a contract, our co-op can more fully live up to its democratic values and commitment to a just society."

The upgrade from the old cash registers coincided with an additional checkout location and improvements to the appearance of the store, Sturgess said.

"It's aesthetically more pleasing, as well," he said. "There's nice craftsmanship around. We didn't do it all sterile and Formica. It's a big change for a little market and I think people appreciated it.

"Pricing is definitely more accurate, and I think people are pleased that we are taking more pride in our store and upgrading."

A membership drive is currently under way. Those who join the Clintonville Community Market by the end of May will receive a discount of 10 percent on grocery purchases.