The general manager of the Niskayuna Co-op since late 2014 is stepping down and being replaced by the longtime assistant general manager.
The co-op’s board of directors said Wednesday that Jennifer Felitte submitted a letter of resignation that indicated personal reasons for her decision to leave.
The former operations manager at Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany began running the Niskayuna store in October 2014, several months after the departure of general manager Don Bisgrove, who worked 38 years at the Niskayuna Co-op.
Between Bisgrove’s departure and Felitte’s hiring, Bisgrove’s former assistant, Richard “Rit” Gabree, served as acting general manager. He continued as assistant general manager for Felitte, and will take over as general manager on April 8, the co-op board announced in a statement Wednesday.
Richard “Rit” Gabree (left) and Don Bisgrove in 2014. (Peter R. Barber)
Gabree began at the Co-op as a meat wrapper and deli clerk more than 20 years ago and worked his way up through the ranks. The board of directors’ statement credited his broad institutional and operational knowledge, and said he is respected by members and employees alike.
Reached in her office at the co-op on Wednesday, Felitte deferred comment to the board of directors. Board President Donna Evans had no comment on the departure beyond the statement released Wednesday, but said the board is actively working to prepare the co-op for the future.
The small supermarket on Nott Street was founded in 1943 and has since grown to more than 12,000 members who enjoy lower prices and other benefits for a one-time fee of $5. Felitte said in November that only about 7,000 members are active shoppers.
Non-members also can shop at the co-op.
It remains a well-loved fixture in the community, but is not as well-patronized as it once was. The opening in 2011 of a large ShopRite supermarket 500 feet away cut into its revenue. Added to the competitive picture are a Hannaford and two Price Chopper supermarkets within three miles, expanding grocery departments at nearby big box retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart, and growing online grocery shopping options.
Felitte said Wednesday the co-op rang up just over $8.8 million in sales in 2016 and is projecting the same amount in 2017. With the first quarter of the year coming to a close, the projection has been on target so far, she said.
By comparison, 2011 sales were more than $10 million, she has said.
The declining sales are worrisome enough that the board of directors in November launched a strategic planning initiative to investigate the sales decline. The effort was expected to take six to nine months and include a revised mission statement, an environmental assessment and an analysis of the co-op’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and the threats facing it.
Evans said via email that the board continues to prepare the co-op for the future.
“While the sales environment is challenging, the board is actively committed to strengthening the co-op's financial footing and positioning the store for future growth so we can continue to serve our community for decades to come,” she said.