LOGAN SQUARE — After nine years of managing the Dill Pickle Food Co-Op, Sharon Hoyer — the face of the Logan Square co-op since its inception — was recently fired by the grocery store’s board.
The decision caught many people in the Dill Pickle community off guard — with several people reaching out to Block Club Chicago seeking answers. One staffer was so upset she sent out an unauthorized email to owners on the co-op’s account, pleading with folks to appeal the decision. It was signed “Dill Pickle Staff.”
But Hoyer has a message for the co-op’s owners, staffers and shoppers alike: Everything is going to be OK.
“When I’ve run into folks into the aisles or on the streets or when friends and owners reach out, the first thing I do is meet it with assurance and good humor. It’s OK, it’s all going to be OK,” Hoyer said with a laugh.
“The co-op is not in trouble. We’re going through a challenge, but we’ve been through challenges bigger than this.”
In an executive session, the board decided not to renew Hoyer’s contact, which ended in December. According to George Langford, president of the board, it was purely a business decision.
“We had a chance to look at the trajectory and goals and we tried to figure out what was the best path to reach those goals,” Langford said. “We decided what we needed was a different approach to make sure that we were able to fulfill the promise that we’ve made to our ownership.”
Hoyer will stay on as interim general manager until the board makes a new hire, a sign of an amicable split.
“Sharon is continuing to work with us in an interim role. If there was an acute problem, I don’t know that we’d be able to come to a mutual understanding in that way,” Langford said.
Hoyer told Block Club she’s at peace with the decision.
“I’ve worked at the Dill Pickle since it opened, for nine years. It’s been an unbelievable learning experience for me. I look back with nothing but pride and gratitude. I’m in a good place. I’m ready,” she said, adding, “This is the only grocery store I ever want to stop at as long as I live here.”
Under Hoyer, the store moved from its original 1,300-square-foot location at 3039 W. Fullerton Ave. to its current location at 2746 N. Milwaukee Ave., which is six times the size of the original store.
The co-op has grown immensely since its birth in 2005, which is the reason it was able to expand. In its first fiscal year of operation, Dill Pickle grossed $1.3 million in sales, nearly twice what the owners had projected it would gross by its fifth year.
Perhaps because of this, some in the Dill Pickle community were flabbergasted when they found out Hoyer’s contract would not be renewed.
One staffer took it upon herself to send an email to the co-op’s nearly 2,500 owners, furthering the drama.
“We would have never made it to this location without all of her hard work and dedication,” the staffer wrote. “We the staff feel that the board is making a huge mistake.”
In the email, the staffer then asked owners to write letters to the board and attend a board meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 21 in Dill Pickle’s basement.
Hoyer promptly sent out her own email, apologizing for the privacy breach.
“I want to assure you that we take the confidentiality of our owners’ personal data and contact information very seriously. We have investigated this issue and taken immediate steps to ensure that it does not occur again. No other proprietary information was misused,” Hoyer wrote.
Hoyer, the now-interim general manager, said she’s looking forward to new professional challenges.
Langford, who has served on the board since November 2017, said the board is “extremely grateful for all that [Hoyer] has given, which has been quite a lot.”
Asked if the decision was a financial one, Langord said, “With any business, finance is a component. That’s certainly part of what we have to contend with. The Megamall [development] is coming, the demographics are shifting. We have a commitment to inclusive practice and supporting our existing community. We have a commitment to paying a living wage to our employees. There are a lot of things we’re trying to accomplish. It requires big things from us to move toward those pretty ambitious goals.”
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