by Kenna Eaton, General Manager
Expansion and remodel — two words that seem to fall from my lips more and more often as we get closer to solidifying our plans.
It is important to remember that any building or remodeling project is a long process, even for those businesses that aren’t co-op. But, we seem to need a little more time than others to make sure that our investment is well thought through, affordable, and achievable.
Last fall we conducted a survey of members regarding a possible expansion and remodel on our current site. We heard from members that making sure our staff have adequate space to do their work was important to them (what a thoughtful bunch you are!).
So this winter we have spent our time planning the addition for the north side of our building: How big should it be? If we make it big enough to fit our staff and product needs, can the trucks still get in to deliver? And if they can, what will happen to all of our recycling and composting systems? Not to mention all the other uses of the north side, such as the bike racks and the plant sales.
And after thinking about all those options, then we have to re-crunch the numbers: What do we think it will cost? Can we afford to do it? Can we afford not to? For any of you who have been through similar projects, either commercially or on a residential scale, you know the dynamics are complex and intertwined. For every decision you make, another pops up its head and says, “What about me?”
So we are still in that mode — getting closer, but not there yet. Sort of like waiting for winter to end and spring to arrive — first you see one bud and then another and so on, until one day it’s here!
In the meantime, members are welcome to email or call me with your suggestions or queries at email@example.com.
Update on Expansion by Kenna S. Eaton 1/26/2017
Recently, I was asked by a member, “So where are we on our project?” Good question. Thanks for asking. Actually, this project reminds me of taking a really, really long trip. You know the kind—the one where you hurry to get to the ferry on time, and then sit and wait your turn to load. Then you hurry to get on board, and then you sit and wait…. Well, we’re still in the early part of the waiting phase.
You may remember that for this project we are working with a team—a store planner, an architect, an interior designer, and a general contractor—to create a great plan that we can afford. The planner has sketched a new store layout along with an addition, which we’ve sent to the architect, and we’re now awaiting the first “educated estimate” of the cost from the general contractor. Once that number is known, we will add to—or more likely subtract from—the concept until we arrive at a price we can afford. We are still thinking of a modest expansion to accommodate our backrooms, which in turn would allow us to add about 1500 square feet of retail space. So, this is still a modest proposal.
Since we know we will need to borrow some money, this winter the board has been studying the various options we have for financing. At this point, we are in agreement that to undertake a member capital campaign (also known as member loans or preferred shares) might be more than we need, especially when you factor in the cost in terms of staff and board time as well as the additional cost of lawyers, accountants, and legal fees. Currently, we are thinking of securing a more traditional loan from a local bank, as we did when we bought this building. However, no decisions have been made yet. When we have reached an agreement on the basic plan, we will go to the staff for further refinement before going to the board for the initial financial approval. In fact, the board has two opportunities to say “yes” before the project is a ‘go’.
And since we are still so far out, we really don’t know when we’ll be breaking ground either. More than likely sometime this summer, possibly later rather than sooner. Stay tuned for updates as we have them. If you have any questions pertaining to the project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evolutionary Update by Kenna S Eaton, GM 12/07/2016
Planning for the anticipated expansion and remodel of the Co-op has been going on quietly behind the scenes. This upcoming week [12/14/2016] we plan to select a general contractor that we can work with over the course of the next 12 months; in essence we are looking for a company that can meet our needs and that will be a good partner in growing our Co-op.
The selected general contractor [GC] will work with us to develop a project that is both affordable and meets our needs, based on the plan we design. That design is being developed for us by a store planner with a wealth of expertise in small stores like ours- a problem solver as it were.
Other ‘team’ members will be an architect, in this case Jim Williams who has worked with us for almost 10 years and an interior designer, Abbie Greene, who currently works for G. Little and was previously one of our cashiers. Together we will create a plan that is, as I mentioned earlier, affordable and resolves some, if not all, of our challenges.
So, at this point, we are still excited and still not sure what the final plans will look like, nor when they will be ready to be presented to the Board for approval. And while we still don’t know exactly when that will be, we are hoping that it will be March 2017. A reminder: if the Board approve our plans and if the amount of money needed to do the work exceeds about $1.5m we will be asking our members to vote for this much needed upgrade.
Expansion Update- by Kenna S Eaton, GM
It’s been two months since we announced our decision to stay here in our current location and modestly expand to meet the needs of staff, members, and shoppers. Many of you are probably wondering, “What has been happening so far? “
We started the ball rolling by asking each of our managers to tell us what they think needs changing—what isn’t working in their department and why. We collected that information plus their ideas of what new things they would like to do in their departments and gave it to our store planner, PJ Hoffman. PJ has been designing grocery stores for over 40 years and most of that time has been spent in co-ops, so he is uniquely placed to identify and design solutions.
At the same time, we have been working on our operational budget for 2017 as well as developing pro-formas (long-term financial feasibility plans) in order to better understand the financial impact of this project—i.e. how much money can we afford to spend? It won’t be a lot of money, so as I said elsewhere, we won’t get the store of my dreams, or possibly yours, but we will improve our facility to make it easier to both shop and work in—and that will be a huge win.
Over the next month we will identify the general contractor we will work with, as well as nail down our store plans so we can come up with the firm price tag. It’s an iterative process and a collaborative one as well, so it takes time—much like everything else we do around here.
I’d love to hear from you, so if you have any questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact me: email@example.com, and either our marketing manager Ian or I will respond.
Thanks for supporting your cooperative grocery store!