The board of directors of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society voted unanimously on June 27, 2016, to hire Edward W. Fox of Montpelier, Vermont, as its next general manager. Fox will succeed Terry Appleby, who led the Co-op for 24 years, shepherding its growth from a $12-million-a-year grocery store and gas station into a $70-million-a-year organization with over 400 employees, four stores in two states, a gas station, a culinary learning center, and a commissary kitchen that supplies all four stores.
The Co-op, which is currently celebrating its 80th anniversary, is one of the largest and oldest consumer cooperatives in the country. Its position as a highly successful business, deeply rooted in and supportive of its community, with some 25,000 member-owners makes the Co-op a nearly one-of-a-kind enterprise.
It was exactly that unique combination of attributes which drew an extremely strong pool of candidates to apply for the position. Fox has worked in complex organizations at both an operational and a strategic level. He brings to the Co-op almost 30 years of leadership experience in specialty food manufacturing and nonprofit organizations. He is currently vice president of operations for Cradles to Crayons, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides children living in low-income and homeless situations with items — from clothes to school supplies to books — that they need to thrive; the organization has branches in Philadelphia and Chicago, is in the process of expanding to three additional cities, and currently has a budget of over $8 million.
Previously, Fox spent 10 years as chief operations officer for the Vermont Foodbank, a nonprofit with a $15-million budget and a distribution network encompassing 275 partner agencies, and six years as materials/operations manager for Maple Grove Farms of Vermont, a specialty food manufacturer with $60 million in sales.
Fox holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vt. He has served on the boards of the Vermont Governor's Task Force on Hunger and the Barre (Vt.) Players Theater Company and has been a member of many other organizations, including Vermont Business for Social Responsibility. "I have a passion for leading mission-oriented organizations," he said, "and deep admiration for the Co-op's longstanding support of its members, shoppers, employees and community."
He will take up his new position on September 6, collaborating with Appleby during a transition period. Appleby will be retiring from the Co-op at the end of 2016.
The eight-member committee that managed the search process was chaired by board member Michael Bettmann, M.D.; it included two other board members, one of whom is also an employee, plus five Co-op members, and also tapped the expertise of two local executive search specialists. From a pool of more than 70 candidates, the committee identified eight applicants with whom phone interviews were conducted. Four semi-finalists were brought to the Upper Valley for interviews with the committee, tours of the Co-op facilities, and meetings with employees. The committee then recommended two finalists to the board; they were brought back for return visits that included additional employee meetings and tours, plus interviews with the board in both formal and informal sessions.
Tony Roisman, president of the board, said the Co-op was fortunate to have "two exceptional finalists." He called the board's deliberations during the search "substantive, relevant and collegial" and expressed enthusiasm for the organization's future under Fox's leadership.