Back in the spring of 1985, a group of eight recently unemployed restaurant workers decided to form a worker-owned cooperative. Those workers had never run a business before. But they collectively had over 100 years of restaurant experience…and the determination to create their own livelihoods. The Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (then Worker Owned Network,) had also formed in the spring of 1985. Their goal was to promote community-based economic development in the region through the formation of worker-owned businesses. With their help, Casa Nueva’s founders developed a business plan, secured financing, and created the foundation of our current cooperative structure.
As the business has grown over the years, we have branched out beyond the restaurant. In 1987, we created our Casa Nueva Salsa and Limited Harvest product lines. And in October of 1993, we expanded to include a full service bar we call the Casa Cantina. In 2003, the owners embarked on the largest expansion project in the corporation’s history: doubling the size of the Cantina and adding a second kitchen. The Bodega kitchen has allowed us to expand our menu options and appetizer selections. Although we are currently not producing salsa in jars for retail sale, you can visit us at the Athens Farmer’s Market where we sell fresh salsas, as well as dressings and baked goods.
Throughout our history, we have maintained a commitment to ownership opportunities for all our employees. Every employee of the corporation has the opportunity to become an owner. Before employees are accepted as owners, they are required to attend a number of workshops focused on cooperative and financial education to become fully aware of both their rights and responsibilities as owners.
Communicating our mission and core values to our workers, customers, suppliers, and community in tangible ways is extremely important to us. Although Casa Nueva or “new house” isn’t so new anymore, our owners stay committed to creating “what’s new” both as a business and cooperative. At Casa, we believe that our efforts are part of a larger movement in which workers can provide direction and vision to create a workplace where all individuals are treated with equality, respect, and compassion.
We are very proud to have been a provider of local, sustainable, Mexican-inspired food for our community for the last 30+ years! We have been fortunate to have such a supportive network of customers, producers, and cooperators. Many thanks to everyone who has made Casa Nueva the successful business it is today.