The Moscow Food Co-op is Growing!
As we outlined in our forums about growth in 2015, we are looking to expand. Specifically, we are planning on expanding right across the border into Pullman. Since our community forums back in October and November, we have received many questions about the specifics–Where are we opening, when are we opening, how big is the store, etc. While we don't have all the specifics yet, we do have some broad answers to these questions that will get easier to answer as we get closer to opening. Lets dive in to some of the major driving forces behind this decision!
Why should we grow?
Our owners want it! Many of the owners surveyed for our 2014 Strategic Plan expressed their desire for another store– specifically in Pullman. Around 40% of owners surveyed thought we should expand to Pullman. The grocery market is also changing and growing to be more competitive. With the growth of many national chains we want to make sure that we are best able to serve our area.
A significant percentage of our owners and shoppers live or work in Pullman and we believe our customers should be able to shop where it is convenient for them. Pullman is also close enough to keep our logistics manageable, as most of our delivery trucks drive through Pullman on their way to Moscow and our administrative staff is close by to help both stores flourish. We want to serve the Pullman community by creating jobs, supporting the local economy, and supporting the local community!
Where will the store be located?
We aren't quite sure yet. At our Pullman Growth Forum, people were pretty clear that they wanted to see the Co-op downtown, so we are working towards that! Everything will be determined by what is available though, so if you have any ideas or know of any great properties that are available, let us know.
When is this going to happen?
When we initially announced our plans to expand, we had a tentative 24-month timeline. We are still on track to stay within that timeline, but it's hard to say much more. Our timeline is going to depend on available properties, and issues with the design and construction of any building project.
Isn't it risky to open a new store?
There is definitely an element of risk in investing the time and money to open a second store. The good news is that we are doing all we can to make sure that we are prepared for the process. We have performed market studies, done financial planning, owner surveys, had outside consultation, and made friends with a lot of people in Pullman to make sure this can work out. Our market survey estimates that the Moscow store will take an initial sales hit, but both stores will recover and thrive. We would rather lose some sales to a second store in Pullman than to outside competition. Opening a second Co-op is better for the community as well, as we do a pretty good job of keeping dollars local when compared to other national chains.
So, what does this process look like?
The Board of Directors, General Manager, and internal staff have been training and preparing for growth and competition for quite a while. We have consulted with experts, attended conferences, taken webinars, participated in calls, and much more to inform ourselves. The first thing we did was get a market research study done. The results of that market study were that Pullman was a great place to put a second store. Then we started working on financial pro formas and design feasibility to make sure that a second store was financially responsible. Now we are looking for a piece of property, deciding whether to own or rent, then starting the design process. We hope to work closely with many people from the Moscow/Pullman region to help design and execute our vision for a beautiful new Co-op in Pullman.
So, how are we planning on paying for all this?
We have been saving diligently and paying down our existing debt. This puts us in a great position to take on the debt involved in opening a new store. Even though we have been saving and hope to secure additional financing from public and private lenders, we can't do this without YOU, our owners!
How can i get involved?
Glad you asked! Making sure you are a fully paid owner of the Co-op is a great start. A full share of ownership in our Co-op is currently $150. Because we offer a great payment plan of just $10 a year, many owners haven't become Lifetime Owners yet. Your equity dollars get turned around directly into capital improvements to the store. Many of our fixtures, coolers, hot bar, ice maker, and many more things around the store are funded from equity dollars paid by owners. Yeah, it's that important!
Secondly, the Board is in the process of exploring capital campaign options. We aren't quite sure what these will look like yet, but they will most likely involve member loans of some sort. Many of you may be familiar with these, as we used them to move into our current location a little over 10 years ago. They were a great success then and we hope to do even better this time around.
Lastly, spread the word. Make sure people know we are excited to move to Pullman! If you want to get involved, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how you can help.
How DO I Keep informed?
There will be updates on our webpage as we release them. We'll let you know where we are going, what it's going to look like, and eventually, have pictures! You can also sign up for our e-newsletter, our Board email list, and attend Board meetings. They are the second Tuesday of every month at 6PM in the Fiske room at the 1912 Center in Moscow.
Contact us at the following emails with any questions you might have:
Growth Questions - email@example.com
Board of Directors - firstname.lastname@example.org
General Questions - email@example.com