The Value of a Small-Town Community

Dan Williamson | Cobargo Co-operative

Dan has been the manager at Cobargo Co-operative since mid-2020. After a previous work injury, Dan started work at the Co-op as a casual and after working there for about 2 years was given the position of manager. Although he had no prior experience in retail or rural supplies, Dan’s dedication and willingness to learn have allowed him to excel in his position.

The Co-op was originally opened in 1901, where local farmers brought in their dairy products to sell together. Since then, it has expanded to sell many different rural supplies, hardware, fuel and plants. The closest major centre to Cobargo is Bega, half an hour away, so the Co-op aims to provide as much to the community as possible to limit their needs of going into Bega.

“Cobargo Co-operative is a true Co-operative, owned by its shareholders, which is about 1,800 local community members. Basically, our shoppers are the owners.”

Being such a small town, connections with customers are important to build. This means that Dan ensures he hires staff based on their personality and community ethic as he believes farming know-how can always be learnt but community interaction comes naturally.

“We all know most of our customers by first name and love to connect with them on a personal and social level.”

With such an inviting atmosphere, the Co-op has become a place where customers enjoy visiting, and picking up their supplies is just an added benefit.

Working so closely as a community is Dan’s favourite part of the job. “The amazing thing about a diverse Co-operative is that we are not focused on one thing. If the community needs change, we roll with that.”

Cobargo’s close-knit community work together to help each other when facing difficult times. This was especially evident during the Black Summer bushfires. Cobargo and its surrounding areas were hit hard losing half of their main street and over 400 homes in the local district.

In the immediate weeks and months post fire, we were able to adjust our purchasing to the specific disaster recovery needs of the town.”

Dan’s favourite part of working in the rural supplies industry is the diversity. “From the beef/dairy farmers with their huge inputs to the blockies up in the hills with their chooks, goats, alpacas and guinea pigs, we see them all.”

Cobargo Co-op has been purchasing stock from csg since 2011 and find the team consistent, helpful and easy to work with. “The long history of our relationship with csg is testament to a business that has its customer service set high and its’ dispatch/quality/accounts worked out.”

The best-selling csg product at Cobargo Co-op is the Chook Mix Complete. “We sell about 5 pallets a month and it just walks out the door with no complaints and no need for other options in the floor.”

Dan and his customers are currently facing the global concerns of pricing increases, economic uncertainty and increased cost of living. In such a small community, there is opportunity to diversify rural supplies, by stocking basic needs such as food.

It’s opportunities like these, where a community can work to supply their own needs through tough times, that makes working at the Co-op worth it.

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