MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Cooperativa Acli di Gavirate

From 1947 to 1971

The Limited Co-operative Society Acli was established on October 5, 1947 by five founding members who, due to political differences within the People's House of Gavirate, which was affiliated with the League of Cooperatives, decided to form a new organization based on the principles of "white" cooperation. The purpose of the new consumer cooperative, with offices located at no. 2 Via Corridoni, was to manage of a small restaurant (initially in a small venue in the Gavirate town centre on Via XXV Aprile, furnished by merchant member), as well as a shop that sold wine, spirits, foodstuffs and clothing. The number of members rose rapidly to a total of 255.

During its early years, the society began the business of wine making, producing wines which were mainly purchased by the Varese company Bottinelli, and went on to set up a press and a number of large wooden barrels in the cellars of the Via Corridoni establishment. By 1955, its main activities were the direct management of the restaurant and the wine shop. The society had come to be known as the "Circolino" (the "Little Circle") of Gavirate and, thanks to the courts built by the cooperative itself, was a lively centre for the game of bocce, for which a "bocce section" was later constituted. That same year, the cooperative's members decide to join the Confederation of Italian cooperatives of Catholic inspiration and, consequently, the Varese Provincial Union of Cooperatives. Over the following years, new bocce courts were constructed and the restaurant was entirely redecorated. During this period, only 25 new members joined the society: this may have been due to the fact that the society was no longer, in fact, a consumer cooperative selling products at advantageous prices, but was rather more closely associated with the restaurant, and therefore only attracted "circolino" visitors as members. In 1967, on the 20th anniversary of its founding, the shareholders decided to extend the duration of the society until December 31st of the year 2000.

From 1972 to 1987

In 1972, the business began losing money and the cooperative began to no longer distribute any profits to its shareholders. The following year, the situation did not improve, but it was decided to renovate the kitchen of the restaurant just the same. The 1973 budget still showed the society to be losing money and some members began to doubt the feasibility of continuing with the cooperative's activities. The general assembly, however, decided to continue with the activities, while noting that the objectives for which the cooperative had been founded were no longer feasible due to the changing needs and times. In 1975, the apartment on the first floor of the restaurant, which had been previously occupied by the manager, was transformed into an office and used, upon payment of expenses, to accommodate the local Club Varese and Democrazia Cristiana branches. Over the following years, for one day a week, these premises were also conceded to a number of other groups: the Gavirate the Alpine Club, the Gavirate cycling society and the Gavirate Motorcycle Club, as well as the basketball club, the sewing school and the chess club. Spaces were also conceded to the Acli association, above all for the Acli benevolent fund.

In 1982, upon its 35th anniversary, the society decided to entrust its administrative, fiscal and accounting management to the Varese Union of Cooperatives. Low wine production volumes, combined with the methanol scandal that led to the introduction of stricter regulations throughout Italy, forced the company out of the business of retail wine sales. The following year, the direct management of the bar-restaurant business, which until then had been entrusted to a manager with a fixed salary plus sales commissions, became difficult and was too expensive due to a constant imbalance between costs and revenues. For these reasons, the shareholders decided to replace this activity by renting out the licenses for the management of the business. In 1987, the cooperative also opened its facilities to the local Schola Cantorum.


From 1988 to the present

As of 1988, the number of members (of which about 80% were retired) began to climb once again thanks to the revival of the cooperative's traditional events, like the bocce tournaments and the annual grape festival, but also thanks to the idea of restoring sales activities, intended primarily as a service for the elderly who were unable to leave the house.

In 1992, the society made an agreement with the property owners to begin considerable renovation work in exchange for the signing of a lucrative long-term lease, which included the right of first refusal in the event of a sale. The work was completed the following year. In 1996, the board adhered to the new S. Egidio Cooperative of Tornavento, which gave rise to the "Community Project" proposed by the Varese Union of Cooperatives for the revival of the activities of the cooperatives. It was at this time that the President of the Gavirate Cooperative, Luigi Giromini, was elected to the post of provincial councilman for the same Union. That same year, the duration of the society was extended until the year of 2050 and the People's House of Gavirate closed soon after, thus leaving the "Circolino" as the only remaining local cooperative. In 1997, it was decided to restore the statue of "La Madonna Orante" (The Praying Virgin): a statue which had became a symbol of the cooperative itself and was commissioned, exactly one hundred years prior, by the ancestors of the families who owned the building. Upon the death of its owner, Lidia Bravo, in 2001, the building, which had become the historical site of the society, was inherited by her children who, following nearly a year of negotiations, decided to sell it to the cooperative itself. The entire assembly of shareholders therefore proceeded to purchase the building through the stipulation of a twenty-year mortgage, relying on the revenues deriving ??from restaurant's rental for payment. In 2006, the restaurant also operated as a pizzeria, and was enormously successful in attracting a younger clientele thanks to the quality of its products and its moderate prices. Today, many projects, which are decisive for the maintenance and future development of the cooperative itself, are brought to the attention of its members. One of these calls for the segregation of portion of a building in order to allow for the construction of apartments and an underground car park. The cooperative has succeeded in extinguishing its mortgage while maintaining possession of the premises for its commercial activities, as well as the offices for its own activities and those of the Acli benevolent fund. A rejuvenation can already be seen to be taking place within the society's board of directors, with the presence of people between the ages of forty and fifty, an aspect which is extremely important to ensuring the exchange of leadership.

Today, its 143 members must make informed decisions while keeping in mind that, unlike private businesses, cooperatives are not only required to protect their assets and to revitalize and diversify their activities, but also must protect their intangible heritage of solidarity and membership over time, without which the cooperative would have no reason to exist.