A worker-owned cooperative turns a profit

Image via Oregon Business

A few weeks after the Little Devil and Whitewater fires almost destroyed the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center, I made my first pilgrimage to the resort.

It was an opportune time for a business editor to visit an intentional community and worker-owned cooperative.

Why? Because the much-beloved retreat, surrounded by the Willamette National Forest ten miles northeast of Detroit, has recently become a profitable enterprise. Revenues last year clocked in at $4.7 million, and the center meets its 100-person capacity most of the year.

In 2016 Breitenbush served more than 25,000 guests. Were it not for the fires, occupancy might have shot past 38,000 this year, says marketing and events director Brinton Reed.

It wasn’t always thus. Structured as a workers’ co-op since 1989, the 153-acre retreat used to consider 15 guests a success, says business director Peter Moore. “It’s only in the last few years that our reputation has grown, and with it loyalty. Some people come 2-3 times a year.”

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