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Posts Tagged ‘worker-owned’

Heading into Casa

In the spring of 1985, a group of 8 unemployed restaurant workers decided to form a worker-owned cooperative. The original founders had never run a business before, but collectively had over 100 years of restaurant experience and were determined to create their own livelihoods. They turned to the recently formed Worker Owned Network (now the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks) and with their support developed a business plan, secured financing and created the foundation for Casa Nueva’s cooperative structure. As a measure of the sustainability of this vision, some of today’s worker-owners include children born to that first generation of Casa founders.

Celebrating 25 years

Last night twenty five banners, each a tribute to a year of Casa Nueva’s successful experiment as a worker-owned enterprise, covered the walls of this Athens hotspot. A big crowd of The Locavore Solution’s friends and loyal customers came out for a night of celebration, food and music.

Casa champion Leslie Schaller

The festivities were kicked off by Leslie Schaller, Casa Business Manager and the sole remaining member of the first group of worker-owners that founded the restaurant. Standing in front of a banner that listed all of the workers who have owned a share of the restaurant over the years, Leslie acknowledged the on-going support of the community in creating Casa’s success.

The mayor

Next up was Athens Mayor, Paul Wiehl, who proclaimed October 20th Casa Nueva Day. A highlight of the early evening was the awarding of the year’s ‘eater’ award, selected by Casa’s staff.

Jerry Chester

This year’s prize went to Jerry Chester and Matt Griffin who had their first date at Casa 25 years ago and continue to be loyal customers.

Just in time for the many children in attendance, Flyaway Saturn, an Athens-based band that writes and performs music for the whole family, took the stage. Soon folk, small and large, were bouncing to the band’s beat, with all that motion only building the hunger for the next event – FOOD!

Many of Casa’s former worker-owners have, over the years, launched their own food enterprises and they gladly donated food for the party. On the long table in the central dining room, one could sample fare, made just for the occasion, by Avalanche Pizza, O’Betty’s Red Hot, Purple Chopstix, The Village Bakery, and a special CASA (caramel, apple, spiced ale) brew from Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery. By 9 PM, most of Casa’s baby boomer-age fans headed home, making room for the younger generation to dance away the rest of the night.

It’s easy to love Casa’s seasonal menus, comfortable bar, and quirky staff, but its spirit is truly inspiring. In a world gone mad and bland, Casa’s spicy insistence on supporting local farmers and food producers, treating its workers well, and building community, shine. Here’s to another 25 years and more!

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