Hello Co-operator is a series in which we meet members of the Philadelphia co-op community.
W/n, W/n (pronounced “Win Win”) is an upcoming, co-operatively owned and operated coffee bar that will be located at 931 Spring Garden. Selling specialty coffee, drinks and seasonal, local food, W/n, W/n will offer a wide variety of products. In addition, the coffee bar will be run cooperatively by its as-of-now eight owners and working members.
Philly Co-op Intern Mowie Freeman talked with two of W/n, W/n’s founders and co-owners, Will Darwall and Mike Dunican.
What are your prior experience with cooperatives?
Will: This is my first cooperative project.
Mike: This is my first time doing an intentional cooperative project.
Why does the cooperative model appeal to you?
Will: Because each of us has sort of specialized experience and one phrase that we had been throwing around a lot in the beginning was, ‘e pluribus plurum’—many hands make light work. We all had experience in different ways and it was just a matter of bringing it all together. When a lot of people bring a lot to the table—activities, experience, duties—the only way that makes sense to me to organize that is to run it together, to communicate really well and to cooperate.
Mike: For W/n, W/n it’s sort of the only thing that makes since. It was a pretty organic development. There had been maybe three or four of us before Will came on and proposed the idea in a formal way and before that point we hadn’t really decided how to organize ourselves, how to structure ourselves. [The co-operative model] felt equitable, it leveled the playing field.
What are the differences between how a non-cooperative coffee bar is run and how W/n, W/n is run?
Mike: We make large decisions by consensus and normal course of business is decentralized among the different people and groups who are responsible for them.
Will: Rather than having a manager come in and set rules for everything, how every service is supposed to run, from a service perspective things will probably be a little more fluid and direct—us to customer.
What is weird to me about often walking into restaurants is knowing that the people I’m talking to are directly responsible for the restaurant and my experience there but they have no rights over how the restaurant is run. In our case, we are accepting that we are responsible for a customer’s experience at our place. It’s not a new responsibility for us, we’ve always been responsible for that, but in this case, we also have sort of a stake and a say in how that goes.
What skills do people need to be a member of a worker co-op?
Will: Listening. I’d say that’s it, and a desire to be there and be a part of it. For our co-op: hustle.
Mike: [For W/n, W/n], just some restaurant or café experience—any applicable experience. We’ve sought out members based on our needs. I think after we’re operating it will be a different process—definitely dictated by our needs but we’ll have training programs in place.
W/n, W/n has a target opening date of September 2014. Keep an eye out for details about their opening!