Oliver’s Market, the largest independently owned supermarket in Sonoma County, Calif., is selling 43 percent of the company to employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). The company also registered with the state as a Social Purpose Corporation, which allows leadership to consider employees, the environment and the community, in addition to financial position, in business decisions.
“I am doing these things to preserve the legacy of Oliver’s for the future, and for our employees,” said Oliver’s Market founder and President Steve Maass. “I have looked at many possible scenarios for securing the future of Oliver’s in recent years, and creating an ESOP company was a great move for us. We all see small independent businesses disappear every day, and I am proud to say that we are doing everything in our power to remain local and independently run.”
The move makes Oliver’s Market, with four locations – two in Santa Rosa and one each in Windsor and Cotati – the largest ESOP in the county, with more than 600 employees eligible to participate in the program. The vesting program gives employees with 10 or more years of service immediate, full vesting while all eligible associates employed at the start of the program, Jan. 1, 2017, full vesting in three years.
The company is committed to continuous education about the ESOP, and plans changes to its marketing and store merchandising programs to educate customers as well. The process of reporting and auditing was completed March 31, and employees will see their first account statements in late summer.
“Steve chose to sell Oliver’s to the employees instead of selling to an outside company to preserve the legacy of Oliver’s and remain locally and independently operated,” said Jill Olsen, Oliver’s CFO. “We are also more committed than ever to serving our employees, our customers and the communities where we do business as a Social Purpose Corporation. This is a pivotal moment in our company history. As we look to the future of Oliver’s and our commitment to serving Sonoma County, what can be more local than being employee-owned?”