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Quimper Mercantile: Tiny profit, goal of sustainability

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Quimper Mercantile made a net profit after taxes in 2014 of $2,171, and it has big goals for its third year as a community-owned retail store.

“For anybody to be profitable in the first two years of operation is remarkable,” glowed Quimper Mercantile CEO Peter Quinn on Monday. “We have a good trajectory; we know where we are going.”

Quinn said 60 shareholders turned out March 25 to hear the good news.

Technically speaking, the company did $1,337,911 in sales in 2014, up from $1,099,596 in sales in 2013. It had a net loss of $87,817 in 2013. In 2014,  it posted a net profit after taxes of $2,171.

Quinn is holding onto that net profit number, small as it may be, but not too tightly.

“We're not focused on profit, we're focused on sustainability. We're not trying to maximize shareholders' profit. We're trying to meet the needs of the community,” he said.

“And we're really excited to prove this is a workable scheme and that communities of our size anywhere can cultivate prosperity and inspire the world,” he said.

“Not everybody can do this, but Port Townsend is a community that can and has done it.”

The store opened in October 2012 at 1121 Water St., filling a large space in Port Townsend Plaza that had been empty after Swain's Outdoor closed in early 2011.

There are more than 840 community investors who hold 7,400 shares in stock in Quimper Mercantile, and people are welcome to sell their shares or buy more.

Although Quinn may not completely measure success in numbers, a PowerPoint presented at the meeting did show numbers, and it boasted that the dry goods retail store is ahead of budget for the first quarter of 2015.

The goal was to do sales of $200,000, and so far, the store has posted sales of $215,000. That's more than the sales of $173,344 posted in the first quarter of 2014, according to the PowerPoint.

A profit for the quarter was to be announced yesterday.

HEALTH INSURANCE

One change that did happen in 2014 was for the company to stop providing health insurance to the five full-time and three part-time employees, a change Quinn said worked out to be best for both the employees and the company.

“Everybody was better served by finding their own insurance,” Quinn said. Quimper made sure their benefit package was not diminished by taking health-care benefits away, and increased their hourly wages accordingly, he noted.

“Eight people to put a group together (for insurance) is hard to do,” Quinn said.

Quimper also has implemented an employee incentive program so that if the company breaks even, employees receive a percentage of the sales above that in lieu of hourly wage increases.

Quimper also told shareholders, according to that PowerPoint, that it had paid down a debt by $25,000 in 2014, secured a $100,000 line of credit from private individuals, and expanded into additional retail space.

COMMUNITY REWARDS

Quimper has also introduced what it calls a Community Rewards program for residents of Jefferson, Clallam and Island counties.

After spending $100 at the store, shoppers from the three counties earn a 5 percent discount forever.

“We've been doing that for a year and I think it's well received,” Quinn said.

For 2015, the company aims to reduce its debt and rely on a long-term loan and a line of credit, paying back that line of credit in the same fiscal year.

The company also plans to implement a board compensation plan similar to that of the Port Townsend Food Co-op, giving board members a $49 monthly merchandise allowance and possibly a monthly compensation for Quinn, Chief Operating Officer Steve Moore and Chief Financial Officer Marty Gay. That plan has not been finalized.

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