Casa Nueva, Athens, OH

Casa Nueva is an innovative, worker-owned cooperative based in southeastern Ohio. We are dedicated to strengthening the environmental, economic and social well being of our community by promoting wholesome products, democratic participation and responsible business practices..

casa nueva athens

Casa Nueva history

Back in the spring of 1985, a group of eight recently 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 the determination to create their own livelihoods. Fortunately, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (then Worker Owned Network,) had recently formed in the spring of 1985 to promote community-based economic development in the region through the formation of worker-owned businesses. Through their staff’s tutelage, the coop’s founders developed a business plan, secured financing and created the foundation of Casa Nueva’s cooperative structure.

With the passage of time, Casa Nueva has expanded to include the Casa Cantina which opened in October of 1993 and our Casa Nueva Salsa and Limited Harvest product lines which we began manufacturing in 1987. In 2003, the owners embarked on the largest expansion project in the corporations history: doubling the size of the Cantina seating, increasing the premises by an additional storefront and adding a second kitchen. The Bodega kitchen has allowed us to expand our menu options and expand our appetizer selections.

Communicating our mission and core values to our fellow owners, customers, suppliers and community in tangible ways is extremely important to us; as well as being good collaborators, learners and listeners within the economic system. Although Casa Nueva or “new house” isn’t so new any more, as owners stay committed to creating “what’s new” both as a business and cooperative. At Casa, we feel that our efforts are part of a larger movement in which owners can provide direction and vision to create a workplace in which all individuals are treated with equality, respect and compassion.

Carly Damman, of the Ohio University School of Journalism, interviews Michelle Wasserman about the worker-owned restaurant Casa Nueva in Athens, Ohio.

Cooperative structure

Casa Nueva was founded as a worker-owned cooperative in 1985.

Throughout our history, we have consistently maintained a commitment to ownership opportunities for all our employees. Every employee of the corporation has the opportunity also to become a shareholder. They are required to attend several workshops focused on cooperative and financial education to become fully aware of both their rights and responsibilities as owners. To a large extent, membership’s initiative to provide input on policies and procedures has paved the way for our overall development as an innovative, well-managed business.

The governance structure is based on established models, including those developed by the Industrial Cooperative Association in Boston, and in the larger sense, the Mondragon system of cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain.  However, our success as a cooperative rests firmly on our ability to adapt these models to the goals and needs of the business and the individual co-op members.

Everyone who works at Casa has a voice that is listened to and respected.  However, only the members (worker-owners) of the co-op have a vote.  Each worker-owner owns one non-transferable share of the business and one vote.  And even though we are a cooperative, we do have a form of hierarchy since there are still decisions to be made and people to hold accountable for those decisions. 

Casa Nueva

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