PT Food Co-op

The Food Co-op, 414 Kearney Street, Port Townsend, 98368
Port Townsend
Phone: (360) 385-2883

Expansion Updates

Food Co-op Expansion Open House
by: board member Lisa Barclay

Thanks to all who attended our open house on The Food Co-op’s expansion Tuesday, August 22. Members pored over the draft layout for the store and talked with General Manager Kenna Eaton and board members about the details. We appreciate your thoughtful questions as well as your support.

New Store Layout

Members were particularly interested in the plan to move the dining area to the front of the store. This change will enable us to relocate the Wellness Department to the main body of the store and it will also encourage people to pay for their food before they eat it. In addition, eliminating the deli cash register should help with the congestion around the deli case. We expect that both cashier fast lanes will be open at lunch time, which could make buying your deli purchases actually faster than now. There were some questions about the distance from the deli to the eating area, but such a separation is actually quite common and seems to work smoothly for other stores.

The Bulk Department will move into the current dining room and Wellness will use some of Bulk’s current space as well as the south entrance area, and the south door will be closed, allowing us to utilize all our space while keeping the expansion fairly small. 

The back rooms will be expanded, making them much more usable for storing product and stocking shelves. The staff is pretty happy to be getting a second bathroom, one they don’t have to share with maintenance! And the fish and meat department will move out of their closet-sized work space and out from under the feet of the deli and kitchen staff. Seafood will get its own case, and we’ll be able to offer more local meat, supporting local businesses.

We’ll be digging into the hill behind us a little and building a retaining wall, in order to have enough room for all our recycling, composting, and waste. It should be easier for staff to access and much tidier! But sorry, while we won’t be losing any parking spaces, we won’t be gaining any either. 

Finances

On the financial side, some members asked how much cash we have in the bank to weather any setbacks. We have well over a million dollars in the bank and the projections for this project never have us below twice the industry standard for cash on hand, so we have a wide margin to work with. We’ve been saving and planning for this expansion for years and we are being fiscally conservative. 

We were also asked why we aren’t getting our loan from a credit union, as a fellow cooperative. Our current loan is with Kitsap Bank, so any bank that wanted to loan us money would need to first buy that loan from Kitsap (because of how loan priorities work), which could be a convoluted, expensive prospect. Kitsap is a local, community-oriented bank, and while we haven’t negotiated a loan yet we think that keeping our loan with them will be the most favorable option for us. (In addition, credit unions are set up more for individual customers than for businesses, sort of the way The Food Co-op is mainly for consumers, not businesses.)

Timeline

We had hoped to break ground in November, but these things always take more time than you hope, and we still don’t have a frim fate set yet. We’ll probably start by constructing the new addition, and then we’ll work on the inside of the store, bit by bit. Our contractor has experience in these kinds of remodels, so while there are sure to be disruptions, they should be able to guide us through. And remember, we need you to keep shopping while the construction goes on! We can look at it as an adventure, imagining what is being built behind that plastic sheet or where the bread might be this week.

In the meantime, you can see a drawing of what the Co-op might look like, along with other materials about the expansion, in the dining room and on the website (under expansion updates). The plans are naturally subject to change, but they give us an idea of where we are headed, and it’s fun to look around the store and imagine what it will be like in a year. Thank you for all your support!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Details from our Expansion Open House

Explore our expansion timeline, see how the Co-op is financing our growth, and view the latest floor plan as it changes below!

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Header-Digging-In-Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join Us August 22 for an Open House on the Food Co-op Expansion Project

The Food Co-op board would like to invite our members to an open house on Tuesday, August 22, to see the plans for our expansion and remodel. Please join us in the Co-op dining room between 6 and 7:30 pm to see the revised floor plan for the store as well as Mindy Dwyer’s sketch imagining how we might look after the remodel. We’ll also have a (flexible) timeline for the expansion, from groundbreaking to completion, plus information on how we are financing the work. And, since we’ll have a little more space in the remodeled store, you can tell us what new products you would like to see—we just might have room for them.

What a Ride It’s Been!

When we began this process more than two years ago, we knew it would be a long and complicated road—and it certainly has been. First, we canvassed our members and staff on what they wanted in a store, and then we explored our options, from building anew at a different location to multiple small stores to staying at our present beloved home. Gradually, staying put and expanding slightly became the obvious choice, both economically and emotionally.

We’ll Break Ground in November (We Hope!)

A modest expansion and remodel is rather more complicated and difficult than simply building at a new location, so it is taking time to get all our ducks in a row, but now we are ready to unveil our plans. And if permitting goes as planned, we hope to break ground in November. We’ll be open the entire time we are building and remodeling, so we are going to need your patience and good humor as things get a little more crowded and messy for awhile.

Co-op Members are the Best

But we know our members will see us through, because you told us you love the location, support the Co-op because of what we do, and you want to see those back rooms fixed so our staff has the best possible place to work. We really are a little different here!

 


 

EXPANSION NEWS by Kenna S Eaton, GM

5.25.2017

And what about the Food Co-op’s expansion and remodel plans?

We are still trucking along with planning what it will look like, how it will work, and determining just exactly what it is that we need to do to improve the work space and flow for both customers and staff.

Recently I met with the City in what is called a ‘pre-application meeting’, which is where they tell you what permits and reviews will be needed to issue a building permit. This gave us a much better understanding of what will be required of us. So we’re adjusting our work to reflect those needs. As soon as we have the next iteration of the floor plans (hopefully by the end of May), we will be ready to bring them to our staff for their review and input. Our staff has been extremely patient with the process (who knew it would take this long?). So, lots of preparation is going on behind the scenes as we attempt to create a plan that will allow us to grow in place over the next 10 years. At this point we’re not exactly sure when we’ll be permitted to move forward with the work. But don’t worry, we’ll let you know just as soon as we can.

Speaking of which –did you know we gained 4 parking spots last week? The maintenance crew was able to get creative with striping the parking lot (finally- that was a long, wet winter) and found we could squeeze in a few more spots. The final striping also added a few motorcycle parking slots back into the mix. Now we’re ready for a busy summer. See you in the aisles!

 


 

3/15/2017 Blog

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 expansion@foodcoop.coop.

 


 

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 expansion@foodcoop.coop.

 


 

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: expansion@foodcoop.coop, and either our marketing manager Ian or I will respond.

Thanks for supporting your cooperative grocery store!

»