To celebrate its 39th birthday, Central Co-op will be handing out personal-sized pies in front of the Broadway Performance Hall at Seattle Central College 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16. Seattle Central is at East Pine Street and Broadway.

Central Co-op recently tested itself to see how well it has been serving the community, and the results were better than CEO Garland McQueen expected.

Central Co-op: Feeding the Washington Economy was commissioned in July, ahead of National Co-op Month in October, and in anticipation of the cooperative’s 40th anniversary next year.

“We wanted to make sure we’re living up to the principles that we profess and how well we’re doing for the community,” McQueen said. “We expected some good results because we are a co-op, but this is a little better than we expected, and we’ll take it.”

The study found Central Co-op returns more than 52 percent of its revenue to the local economy, compared to an average 36 percent for other U.S. cooperatives and 23 percent for conventional grocery chains. Twenty percent of Central Co-op’s products are goods sourced from Washington growers and manufacturers.

“We do give a lot of benefits to our staff,” McQueen said. “We were one of the first to start the $15 wage thing back in 2015.”

The entry-level wage at Central Co-op is now $16.11 an hour, and 87 percent of full-time employees qualify for benefits. The study found Central Co-op spends 37 percent more than a typical grocery cooperative on labor.

The Capitol Hill cooperative switched to a solidarity model in 2015, allowing employees to buy into the co-op just like its customers do, receiving end-of-year dividends. McQueen said 40 percent of Central Co-op’s 120 employees have done so, with more signing up all the time.

“People stay quite a while. We have some people that have been with us for over 30 years,” he said. “We have a better turnover, or lack of turnover than a lot of chains or other grocery stores.”

Last year the co-op gave nearly $26,000 in need-based discounts to customers and donated more than 78,000 pounds of food to local agencies, according to a Central Co-op news release.

Central Co-op raised more than $15,000 in donations through its Rounded Up program, where customers agree to have their grocery totals rounded to the nearest dollar and the excess funds committed to charity. This year that program has nearly doubled its donation amount, and McQueen said this month Central is committed to raising funds for hurricane relief efforts.

The future Tacoma Co-op will operate using the same model as Central, McQueen said, with the hope being that the new store will open at 4502 N. Pearl St. in March. A sneak peek is planned there noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14. The original Tacoma site shut down in July 2016, after Central Co-op states lease negotiations were not agreeable. A vote to merge with Tacoma Food Co-Op was approved by community owners in December 2015.