Make Benny’s a co-op

Make Benny’s a co-op

To the owners of Benny’s:

Del’s Lemonade, coffee milk, a day at the beach, and of course Benny’s. All of these are Rhode Island icons that are so much a part of what makes Rhode Island Rhode Island. It must be a great source of pride for you to know that Benny’s has become so iconic to R.I. Benny’s is and has been the go to place for everyone.

Everyone in R.I. has gone to Benny’s at some time because Benny’s has everything you need from oil for your car to the special toy at Christmas that you can’t get anywhere else. Where else can you go to stock up for summer? The best part of Benny’s is that it is right there in the neighborhood as part of the community. It doesn’t loom over the community like big box stores it is built to scale for each location. It is the neighborhood store.

While Benny’s as a structure is important, the real face of Benny’s has been the workers. Those who could give advice on what oil you need what tool you need for your project and helped you find it. Those who put together the bikes that went under the Christmas tree and then held it till Christmas Eve, those workers who kept the stores stocked and clean, those workers that would ask how is your husband or wife, “say hello to her for me.” Benny’s workers are our neighbors, our friends. They come from our communities and we feel sorry that they will lose their jobs.

This must be a source of sadness for you also. Having built a business that has such goodwill across the state, your workers must be very important to you.

So, there is a way Benny’s can live on and its workers can remain in those jobs. The way would be to allow the workers to purchase Benny’s and become a Workers Co-op. A workers co-op? What is it? Simply it is a business owned and operated by workers democratically, one worker one vote. On Sept. 19 the General Assembly passed a law making it possible for workers to incorporate a business as a co-op. All over the world and the United States workers are purchasing businesses from employers who wish to retire but don’t want to see their life’s work disappear. There are several examples of corporations here in New England where the owners looking to retire are selling the businesses to their workers. Two are Harpoon Brewery, and A Yard and a Half landscaping company in Massachusetts. In New England there are several institutions including Navigant Credit Union that provide financing specifically to Workers Co-ops and there will be a process to making the transfer.

So in closing we ask you to consider this as an option to preserve Benny’s as an institution and to provide your workers a truly revolutionary opportunity. Benny Bromberg opened a business that became a Rhode Island icon his legacy would live on for future generations of the Bromberg family and the R.I. community.

Eloise O’Shea-Wyatt

Democracy at Work Providence