THE FOOD CO-OP EXPANSION FAQ’S
THE FOOD CO-OP EXPANSION FAQ’S
Q-How did we make the decision to stay here and expand onsite?
- In January 2015 we first talked with our members about our overcrowding problems at the store. Using that feedback, we embarked on a 2 year process to determine the best course of action for our store. We conducted a market analysis and a financial feasibility study. Based upon those results, we determined that staying in our current location was the best fit.
Q- Who made this decision?
- The decision to stay and modestly expand our building was made in collaboration between the Board of Directors and the GM at the summer retreat [June 2016].
Q- What other options were considered?
- We looked at various locations around town to possibly relocate to, but our study confirmed that we are in the best location in town. We also considered building a new store, either here or elsewhere, but the financial feasibility study indicated that it was more affordable to expand and remodel our current building.
Q- How have we changed our building to meet our needs so far?
- In 2011 we built an addition to the south side of the building for our kitchen storage [walk in refrigerator & freezer plus some back stock space for dry goods]. In 2012 we expanded by adding the dining room, and then in 2013 we enclosed the south entrance. Finally in 2014 we paved our courtyard and added the large planted flower bed.
Q- What are you planning to do now?
- It is still early in the process, so our plans are not entirely worked out. We know we need to improve the capacity of our back rooms, to better process and store back stock grocery and produce items. We also need to improve those areas for staff safety and efficiency.
We will take a good hard look at our mechanical & electrical systems to ensure they can meet our long term needs.
Additionally, we are planning to remodel inside the store to improve flow for customers and staff. We may add extra services such as a meat/seafood counter and a salad bar with wells for hot food and soup.
Q- Did you ask the members about expansion?
- Yes- To kick off this process, we held a member forum in January 2015, then added an online poll asking members what they valued most in a facility for the Co-op. Since then we have written about the process and solicited feedback in articles printed both in The Co-op Commons [our newsletter], and blogs on our website. Last summer we put together an ad-hoc facilities workgroup comprised of board and select members of the Co-op to explore our options. The Board of Directors are the elected representatives of the membership designated to envision and articulate the future of the Food Co-op.
Additionally, this month we are sending out a survey to randomly selected members to gather more feedback. Over the years we have been collecting your ideas and dreaming about what we would do when this time arrived. As plans are drafted we will be soliciting feedback from staff for ease of work and the shop-ability of any changes we are considering.
Q- Will member-owners get to vote on the expansion?
- We don’t plan to ask our member-owners to vote on an expansion project, per se, as that’s not how our decision making model is set up. Instead our decision making process assigns this responsibility to the Board Directors. The Board has, and will continue to collect member-owner feedback through a variety of channels. However, our bylaws do state that if we need to borrow funds in excess of our net worth we must solicit approval from our members to secure that financing. Should this be the case, we will go to member-owners for a vote sometime in the spring of 2017 after we know what the project will cost.
As part of our cooperative structure, each Food Co-op member-owner is able and encouraged to vote for Board of Directors candidates each year. These Directors are elected to represent member-owner interests, and are empowered to make important decisions on their behalf. The Board carries the fiduciary* responsibility for the Co-op and must approve any real estate purchases or construction projects.
*A fiduciary is a person or group who holds a legal and ethical relationship of trust with one or more parties. When a party knowingly accepts a fiduciary duty on behalf of another party, they are required to act in the best interest of the party whose assets they are managing.
Q- Will Food Co-op prices increase because of the project?
- The cost associated with expanding the store will not impact prices of products. Retail prices are driven by several factors, including: cost of goods from vendors, costs for product ingredients, packaging, and transportation. Weather events that impact product availability can also contribute to price increases.
The Co-op is like other grocery stores in that the more food we sell, the lower our cost of goods. As our sales increase, we would expect to see additional cost savings that we then pass on to shoppers. It can also be expensive not to expand when your sales exceed a certain dollar value per square foot. For instance, currently our employees make do with less than ideal work spaces, so it takes more labor hours to stock the shelves since all product delivered cannot be put out, creating significant redundancies and inefficiencies.
Q- Will the expansion include more parking?
- At this point in time, no. We are working on several possibilities, but the options are limited. We may need to reconfigure our entire parking lot after we expand, but that is relatively far off in the future.
Q- Will the expansion include solar panels or other’ green’ aspects?
- Gosh, we hope so. But again, it is still so early in the planning phase we simply don’t know. Once we know what we want, we will cost it out and see if we can afford all the things we need as well as those we wish for. If not, we will have to let some things go. However, we do know that we need to upgrade our mechanical system and refrigeration units which will improve our energy efficiency.
Q- Will an expanded store offer services that aren’t currently available?
- Through years of research and inquiry, we have learned that Food Co-op member-owners want more of what the Co-op does well: access to good food and continued expansion of our mission and values. What we have heard so far, is a wish for a salad bar, with both hot and cold food, and an expanded meat/seafood counter. Other than that, we aren’t sure what we will have room for-as I said earlier, this is by many standards a modest expansion, possibly adding only as much as 2500 square feet onto the back rooms of the store for desperately needed storage space. This will allow us to add some inside space- again not much, maybe 1500 SF.
Q- Will the expansion impact my patronage dividend?
- It may. In years in which the Co-op is profitable, as we were in 2015, the BOD declares a patronage dividend. In the midst of an expansion project, it is possible the Co-op may not be profitable due to the extra expenses and perhaps even a decrease in sales, and therefore a patronage dividend may not be declared.
Q- How will the expansion be financed?
- We don’t know that yet either. We will finish up our research about the options this winter. We hope to let our member-owners help us finance our expansion, although we aren’t sure if that will be through loans or the sale of preferred/non-voting shares. And remember, should the amount needed exceed our net worth we will be coming to the owner-members for a vote of approval before we take any action.
Q- How will construction likely impact the store?
- At this time we really don’t know. I suspect that while we build the addition on to the north side of the store, it may affect that entrance. Construction may impact/lessen the amount of available parking at times and we may ask members to try to limit their parking time to one hour or less. We don’t expect work to effect current hours of operations.
Q- When might construction start?
- At this time were don’t know. Probably in late spring- possibly as early as April.
Q- What if you haven’t answered my question yet?
- Please be patient, as probably we simply don’t know yet what the answer is. However you may contact the GM at any time and she/I will try my best to answer it with the information I have at that time: GM@foodcoop.coop or call 360-385-2883 x 303.