Home Money Opinion: Worker-Owned Casa Represents Athens Best

Opinion: Worker-Owned Casa Represents Athens Best

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With the large variety of restaurants available in Athens, it’s hard for one to uniquely distinguish themselves from the others. But Casa Nueva has certainly figured that out.  When most people think of Casa Nueva, or Casa, as it’s known locally, they think of healthy and organic food made from local ingredients, plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, and a great bar with tons of live entertainment. What many people don’t know is that Casa Nueva is a completely worker-owned cooperative business.

Nearly 30 years ago, eight people decided to form this worker-owned cooperative, giving every owner-worker shares in the decision-making process, as well as in the profit of the business. Since then, they have maintained this commitment to providing their employees with ownership opportunities. Today, Casa Nueva employs 23 worker-owners, as well as many non-owner-workers called associates. Associates have the same responsibilities, but choose not to own a share of the business.

Worker-owner cooperative businesses differ greatly from conventional businesses that are owned by shareholders that have more control over their business based on the amount of money they’ve invested. In this type of business, the shareholders often have nothing to do with using the goods and services on the business. While the food and service at the many conventional businesses and chain restaurants can be equally as good, you’re missing out on a truly unique experience.

What influence does an owner-worker co-op type of business atmosphere have on the workers?  Each employee feels that he or she is in charge of your experience. They are more invested in their job, which in turn creates a better customer service experience for their patrons. Many believe that cooperatives are thought to yield increased productivity and worker satisfaction, better job quality and security and greater control of the local economy.

Because of the structure of their business, Casa does not accept tips asconventional eateries do. Instead, tips left by customers are donated directly to a local charity of their choice.  Recent donations have been made to Community Food Initiatives (CFI) and the Athens Farmers Market’s SNAP Benefits Program. December “tips” will be donated to ReUse Industries. Both of these charities significantly help those living in the Athens community to access nutritional foods. CFI is a local food movement that works to provide fresh and nutritious foods for all people in the Southeast Ohio region. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allows its users to use their snap cards at the farmer’s market to buy nutritional and healthy food. When you spend your money at an owner-worker business like Casa, that money benefits the local community and various charitable organizations while circulating around the Athens area instead of going to a headquarters thousands of miles away.

The employees of Casa live and work in the community and support Athens businesses. The restaurant uses locally grown ingredients, and the tips are used to support local charities that give back to the community. Supporting Casa is supporting the Athens community.

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