INTO THE FUTURE
Annual Meeting 2016 - GM Report by Bobby Sullivan
The Annual Owners Meeting is like New Year’s Day, or even a birthday, for this now 41-year-old organization. It’s almost midway through the year, so it’s also a good time to reflect on how well we’ve been accomplishing the goals set we out in our annual business plan, and how we can look to finish out the year successfully. Many people forget that we are both an enterprise and an association. This makes us a very dynamic entity and as it’s been shown by our own history that co-ops are very sustainable, even through tough economic times. This is an organization you will continue to see stand the test of time and we can assure you, It is a good place to invest your energy – shopping, offering feedback, showing up at board meetings, voting, volunteering, or even just smiling when you’re in the store. Now are you ready to move this wily beast into the future? The FBFC under various General Managers and management teams has been planning the upcoming expansion for years now - a little over 20 years in fact - and over time we’ve been very successful in maximizing sales in our somewhat limited space. Leading up to this change and primary among our current initiatives, are our plans to improve our community’s perception of our affordability and accessibility, and also to grow the skillset of our staff - we want our workforce to be able to easily make the transition to a bigger store. We would also like to continue to enhance our ability to provide superior customer service and product knowledge. In truth, we really want to be viewed as the friendliest and most trustworthy store in town.
Data from the market research I did for our 2016 Business Plan, shows that more and more stores are adapting to the newly competitive retail market by doing things more like co-ops, or at least appearing to. And we can see this as both threatening and vindicating. Trends are going our way, but we will have to do a better job broadcasting our story because in truth, we will be able to leverage our strengths as key reasons more and more consumers should come our way. One study, referring to the digital age we now live in, pointing out that “the ‘transparency of everything’ will require retailers to be truthful to the image they portray in all aspects of their business.” Historically, co-ops like ours have been massively successful in encouraging the proliferation of natural and organic food, and now this comes at some cost. Globally, a far broader and more informed consumer base is placing a greater tension on the base commodities needed to support the rising consumer expectations – this means some prices are going up – quinoa is a perfect example. Nationally, as many co-ops are turning 40 years old, a pattern is emerging. Most if not all are experiencing a downturn in sales, rising labor costs and an unplanned decrease in margins. We are a good example of a market where the competition came early and we were able to make the necessary, tough changes to prosper. We had our lowest sales ever in 2009, but have been growing rapidly ever since. In fact, we expect to essentially double 2009’s sales this year! That said, because of the intensely competitive continued on page 2
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Bobby Sullivan General Manager
Finance & Project Manager
Darren Stroupe Produce Manager
Greg Mosser Deli Manager
Health & Body Care Manager
FBFC Board of Directors Justina Prenatt President
Danielle Goldstein Vice President
Jennifer Gustafson Secretary
Bob LeRoy Treasurer
Alanna Hibbard Kelly Fain Pauline Heyne Josh Littlejohn Daav Wheeler Josh O’Conner Jean Karpen Board Assistant
climate, we’re going to have to stay on our toes. We embrace this challenge, because serving the public in this way is not only incredibly important, it is also rewarding in many, many ways. Shopper demographics are changing with the rise of millennials as a consumer class, and there is a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in America. We’ve in fact become the most income-polarized developed economy in the world, according to a recent US Census Bureau. Our retail needs are changing dramatically and rapidly, and this is why more and more retailers are looking to at least pretend to be worthy of our consumer support. But there’s a difference here at a co-op. The ICA points out, “owned by local residents, food cooperatives are naturally community focused.” We’re just built that way. And co-ops do more than generate sustainable wealth for our communities, we create social capital. The French Broad Food Co-op is now in a great position to do this work on a bigger scale. Surviving what was dubbed “Asheville’s Grocery Invasion” by the local press in 2014, we finished the following year with almost double-digit growth. On the horizon now, is a massive change coming to this organization. Because of the forethought of our predecessors, we own this amazing property right here in what is a rapidly growing commercial climate. Downtown Asheville is now in many ways what Julian Price and many others of you were working towards – a thriving metropolis with a unique local flavor. As we step into the future, together we can preserve what we all love about Asheville in the form of a successful community owned enterprise, right at the top of the South Slope. We will be depending on you to bear with us during our transition - we’ll need your patience and your continued support. The way our structure works, I report to the board of directors monthly, on how we feel the enterprise is fulfilling the Co-op’s 5 bottom lines – our End Policies. These are our ends policies and they relate to Products, Education, Financial Health, Staff Environment & Community. There’s a lot to be proud of here and I can only provide highlights, but it’s thanks to you, our owners, for making this all possible.
To maximize the availability of healthful and organic foods and non-food products grown, manufactured, or produced locally with ecological and social responsibility for the community.
French Broad Food Co-op 90 Biltmore Ave. Asheville, NC 28801 Tel:828.255.7650 email@example.com www.frenchbroadfood.coop
Monday-Saturday 8am to 9pm Sunday 11am to 7pm
This is one of the more exciting policies. Nurturing local companies is one of the most rewarding aspects of what we do. Local companies are able to test market their products, even before they get a UPC code. This relieves them of prohibitive startup costs and helps our creative local entrepreneurs generate stable incomes in the early life of
their companies. At this point we offer over 1,000 local products throughout the year, generating almost $½ million in annual sales last year! Roughly 70% of that goes directly into the pockets of local suppliers!!! I clearly can’t mention all our great local companies here, but from Green Opportunities! Kitchen Ready Products on the hot bar, to being the only place to get Carolina Ground Flour – our work in this regard, makes our co-op the best place in town to explore the local food scene. As far as our other products go, we were proud to reintroduce our classic Back to Basics Program, now called Co+op Basics. This program offers organic food staples at the same low price every day and it includes over 100 items, from organic beans & rice to Hickory Nut Gap Beef. You should also know that we now offer gift cards, so if you want to spread the LOVE here, that’s a great way to do it. And there’s also the token program for our weekly farmers market. You can buy those in advance with credit, debit, cash and EBT at the co-op, and then go out and spend them with our local vendors, some of whom established the first organic farmers market here in Asheville. Over the course of the last 3 years, the amount of tokens people purchased valued $21,000! This is money going directly into the pockets of one of Asheville’s most important assets, our local organic farmers. Our focus on Non-GMO Verified products continues, as this was something that was very important to our owners and was widely expressed at a previous annual owners meeting. Our Co+op Basics program is mostly made up of these products and we will continue to support nationwide labeling to point out the products with GMOs, instead of the other way around. In my capacity as a board member of the National Co+op Grocers, I was able to go on a trip lobbying Congress along these ends, with the likes of Jerry - from Ben & Jerry’s, David Bronner, Annie - from Annie’s Mac & Cheese and many other powerhouses in the advocacy wing of the Natural Food Movement. We were successful in helping the DARK Act fail.
As part of a national co-op, there are many opportunities for internal education. The CDS Consulting Co-op keeps our board informed and brings Cooperative Café events to Asheville, where cooperators from around the region gather to discuss priorities and visions for the future. As our virtual chain of co-ops grows, the focus on store support is increasing. The National Co+op Grocers just opened up a regional office in Raleigh and it’s increased our ability to attend regular trainings and download sessions on retail trends. All this is to say that our capacity is increasing and we are committed to constantly looking at ways to get better at what we do.
To have a financially viable, transparent, ethical cooperative with equity growth, patronage refund, and community investment. When it comes to equity, we passed the million-mark last year and we’ve now given patronage refunds for our 4th year in a row! As I said, we are poised this year to essentially double the amount of the sales we did in 2009 and this kind of growth is how we were able to enter 2016 completely debt free, owning the land the store is on and the corner lot across from the Orange Peel. This gives us a strong footing for our plan of expansion. We also have exceptional buying power for a store our size, because our primary supply contracts are negotiated by our national co-op. This means we have better buying power than many of our competitors, including the whole chain of Earth Fare. One of the primary financial indicators we monitor is sales growth and the bar is set at 3%, as a level that needs to be maintained to keep the enterprise healthy. 2010 saw our first growth in sales since 2004.
To empower and inform our community with access to education and customer assistance. This is a challenging policy to fulfill in some ways, because providing classes to the public requires a whole wing of operations that is hard for a small business to maintain. However, Melissa Fryar, our HBC Manager, has done an amazing job building a following for classes that are both unique and valuable. We have also looked for strong local partners who can help us fulfill this mission. Living Web Farms, the Southeast Wise Women’s Herbal Conference, Organic Growers School, LEAF in Schools & Streets, the American Herbalist Guild and the Mother Earth News Fair – these avenues help us do it. As a larger entity, we will have much more of an opportunity to enhance our ability as an educator. Already, our staff does an amazing job learning about the products and imparting their food wisdom on to the customers. They help the customers find exactly what they are looking for, instead of making them endure a sales pitch for what a company might like them to buy. And believe me, we learn a lot from you – our customers - too! continued on page 4
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To be a respectful, responsive, and safe work environment in which a fairly compensated management, bargaining unit, and worker owner team has a strong sense of ownership in the success of the co-op. We were very happy this year to be certified for our second 2-year stint as a Living Wage employer by Just Economics WNC. This means most staff members got a $3/hour raise two years ago, and all got a 65¢/hour increase this year. That makes our entry level wage $12.50, much higher than any other grocery store in our area. Staff members are also represented and protected by the Teamsters Union. This means with the board monitoring our policies from their vantage point, and the union representing staff, we have an effective system of checks and balances. I believe we now provide one of the best jobs in Asheville for folks entering the retail trade. Staff members also get their 20% staff discount on Co+op Basics items, so we’re essentially offering over 100 organic products to them at cost. The Good Jobs Strategy is a book our management team has studied, along with the principles of stewardship and servant leadership, which are so well elaborated on in the Zingerman’s guide books. There has also been an uptick in the amount of training information available in the form of a free webinar service, called Co-op University. Our staff is our greatest asset and one of the most important stakeholders, so next time you’re in the store, I encourage you to reach out to a staff member and thank them for the amazing service they provide, day after day. And before I finish with this policy, I have to acknowledge a great loss we had last year in the passing of our longtime employee and friend Roz Marlowe. I really want to give thanks to the co-op community for providing her a platform from which to share her acquired wisdom with so many people, over a span of almost 3 decades! We were lucky to be a part of the life of someone like Roz and we continue to make this a place where someone can speak their mind, just like Roz always did, and where even dissent is honored - this is thankfully required by board policy and it makes us stronger every day. Our policy regarding Community will be elaborated on by Clare Schwartz, our Outreach Coordinator, in the following issue of the Buzz.
by Lillian White (in her own words- mostly) Ingredients: • • • • • •
2 qts Jerusalem artichokes 2 qts green tomatoes (substitute with green apples or tomatillos) 2 qts onions 1 bunch celery 8 green and red peppers [she doesn’t indicate 8 each or 8 total, I’m guessing total) 1 large cauliflower
1. Cut up with a chopper and soak overnight in 1 gal water with 1 cup salt. (Chop as fine or as coarse as you like. I like kinda large pieces of artichoke.) 2. Drain well in colander 3. Sauce A. 8 cups sugar B. 6 cups vinegar (let sugar and vinegar stand overnight while artichokes etc. soak) C. 1 stick butter D. 8 Tbl dry mustard E. 2 Tbl turmeric F. 2 cup flour G. 6 cups hot water - Add the other 4 cups of water to vegetable mixture 2 cups for step G. - Use 2 c of water to make a paste out of the 2 cups flour (strain mixture into the sauce just before it starts to boil)
H. Bring the sauce to a boil (stirring constantly because it will stick easily) 4. Add all the vegetables and cook 15 mins, keep stirring (or until slightly thick) 5. Pour hot into sterilized canning jars (about 12 pints) 6. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes
Growing Your Own Food is the Bee’s Knees! By Gillian Scruggs, Program & Outreach Coordinator Organic Growers School
Did you know that the phrase “the bee’s knees”, coined to mean “the best” during the prohibition era, refers to the pollen-baskets on the hind legs of certain species of bee? In celebration of National Pollinator Week with Bee City USA, we encourage you to look closely this week at a honeybee. You will likely see the yellow sacks just below where you’d imagine her knees would be. Did you also know that 1 out of every 3 bites of food you take has been brought to your plate due to pollinators? Pollinator gardens have been popping up all over Asheville to provide diverse native habitats for our nectar and pollen-loving friends. In the first week of June, with the support of Organic Growers School’s Home Grower Program Coordinator, Gillian Scruggs, the residents of 5 Points Neighborhood grabbed their shovels and watering cans to turn a sterile grassy corner on East Chestnut Street into pollinators’ paradise. Neighbor Susan McBride planned the garden to feed and nurture pollinators such as bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, some beetles and even hummingbirds. In the garden you will find bee balm, daisies, catmint, asters, cardinal flowers, blackeyed susans, gay feather, oregano, lavender, meadow sage, and milkweed. Organic Growers School is leading a movement to support community projects such as the 5 Points Neighborhood Pollinator Garden in order to educate, inspire, and support the average person to re-engage with growing sustainably on the home and community garden scale. We envision supporting neighborhoods and community centers to help coordinate garden plantings, workshops on growing food, and small-scale garden tours. Want to get involved? Asheville is buzzing with community projects and acts of resilience designed to reconnect us with food and our role in the ecosystem. Reach out to the French Broad Food Coop or Organic Growers School to find out more about how you can be part of the growing food movement!
FROM THE BOARD Board Member, Kelly Fain
Hope this edition of the Buzz finds everyone enjoying these long summer days. Over at our place we’re marking time by the length of cucumbers, ripeness of tomatoes and flashes of fireflies. At the time of this writing, July 4th is still ahead, and the celebration of Independence has me thinking cooperatively (as usual). FBFC has been moving towards its expansion for some time now, and in our rapidly-growing downtown I could not be more proud that an independent, community-owned business like ours is thriving. I’m working on a Co-op history project along with Daav Wheeler and Co-op staff during this important time for our organization, hoping to honor our roots as our leaves stretch skyward, holding our past dear as we grow to better serve our community. Consider this an open call to share your memories, your old photos, your recollections, your anecdotes about FBFC; I would love to capture these mementos and stories! I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you; I’ve already had the extreme pleasure of recording some interviews with a few of our original founders. It’s a lazy summer evening as I type this, and as such, I’m keeping it short but am going to share a recipe to close. Here’s to fresh food, a vibrant community and a worthwhile and important Asheville institution!
Cauliflower ‘tabouleh’ salad • • • • • • •
Cauliflower Local cucumber Local tomatoes Local parsley Lemon Olive oil Salt & pepper
Directions: Chop the cauliflower into tiny pieces. Chop cucumber into small pieces Chop the tomato Chop the parsley Zest and juice the lemon. In a pot over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower starts to soften. Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl. Add the cucumber, tomato, and parsley, and lightly toss. Add the lemon zest and juice, and 1 to 2 tablespoons oil. Season to taste.
Happy Summer to All! Melissa, HBC Manager
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.” - Charles Bowden
Happy summer to all! This season is so wonderful on so many levels ... such growth in the garden, flowers everywhere, vitality in our bodies, and the need to go to water and have long hammock naps with a glass of lemonade or sweet tea. We are now in summer’s prime! The Co-op has many items that can help you navigate the season. My favorites include: Buzz Away Extreme Insect Repellent -- with a blend of natural ingredients, including essential oils, this is an effective way to repel all those flying and biting critters of the season. Para Kito Bracelets -- an effective and attractive mosquito repellant that you wear. Many great colors available and you can attach
it to your wrist, ankle, backpack or chair and no need to reapply often. Tecnu Extreme -- THE medicated poison ivy scrub that soothes but also removes the urushiol oil that causes the rash. Stream2Sea Sunscreens -- a new line of sunscreens that are totally biodegradable, reef safe, and easy to apply. Ingredients include skin nourishing anti-oxidants like green tea, seaweed and tulsi. Wounded Warrior -- a lovingly made local product that truly is a First Aid Kit in a bottle. I have used this for bites, rashes, poison ivy, blisters, and all kinds of wounds. If I’m gonna carry one single skin treatment with me, its Wounded Warrior! Sibu Sea Buckthorn Oil -- I LOVE THIS OIL!! It is easily absorbed
without being too greasy, it is rich in antioxidants, and is wonderful for fading skin discolorations. It is wonderfully healing for burns (including sunburns), wounds, and for rejuvenating skin. I use this oil everyday!
FBFC - MORE WAYS TO SAVE!
Many new items are gracing our shelves as well: Gaia’s Golden Milk -- delicious. Herbalists and Alchemists Fit Adapt -- my new favorite adaptogen blend for keeping my energy up and my post work out recovery short -- On sale this month!! Sunfood’s Mangosteen Powder -- anti-oxidants are so important especially this time of year. Studies have shown that eating more anti-oxidant rich foods can help prevent sunburns. So, eat the berries and greens of the season, and consider adding mangosteen, green tea or acai to your morning smoothie. Many new items from Goddess Garden including facial care and sunscreens ... including a facial cleanser that removes SPF moisturizers. EO has some wonderful new items including hand sanitizers (great for the beach, sticky ice cream situations, and back to school). And speaking of back to school, we do carry some essentials like Kleen Kanteen water bottles & insulated food containers. To Go Ware still provides the multi--tiered Tiffins for lunch boxes, and of course, we always carry our locally made Roly Poly re-usable sandwich and snack bags. Going green and buying multi-use containers for our food and drinks can really impact our environment. Herb wise, this is the season of abundance! Fresh Tulsi and Lemonbalm tea is a seasonal favorite of mine. Any mint is welcome and cooling ... either muddled in water with lemon (or a mojito) or blended with hibiscus and lemon verbena for a sun tea. I try to focus on the cooling herbs like chrysanthemum flowers and mints, and the diaphoretic herbs, such as lemon balm and elder flowers. Regulating body temperature is important in this hot season. Old timers use to drink vinegar waters or shrubs to quench their thirst after a day in the fields. Herbal Revolution has some delicious shrubs available that can be a refreshing summertime drink or an interesting addition to various cocktails. Shrubs are basically fruit based sweetened vinegars. It is a great way to preserve some of the rich berry and fruit harvest of the season. If you are interested in making your own, check out Quench by Ashley English or the kitchn website for directions. I will share a wonderful homemade electrolyte recipe that I stumbled across... • • • • •
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 2 cups water or coconut water 2 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup 1/8 tsp. himalayan sea salt
Mix together and refrigerate for a cooling and refreshing summertime elixir! This is great for replacing those electrolytes we lose through sweat inducing activities. May your summer continue to blossom in delightful ways!
Look for the green Co+op Deal signs to find great saving on some of our most popular products. Look for the Co+op Deals Coupons in the store too and save even more, even on sale items!
Membership has it’s perks! Look for the orange Owner Deal signs to find great prices exclusively for owners.
5% on the 5th
Owners save 5% off their purchases on the 5th of every month.
Special Order and Save
Special order your items in a case or bulk quantity and get 20% off for owners, 10% off for non owners.
Community Appreciation Days
Four times per year we offer 10% OFF ONE ENTIRE SHOP for everyone, not just owners, during Community Appreciation Days.
Buy a pinch or a pound. Our bulk section is awesome, with over 1000 bulk foods, herbs, spices & liquids.
B U L K
In profitable years, owners can receive a percentage of the profits back based on the total spent at the co+op during that fiscal year.
Co+op Basics offers younew low prices on over 100 of the same staples every week, so you can plan your weekly meals around affordability and quality.
Right At Home By Bob LeRoy, Treasurer, French Broad Food Co-op
I always feel immediately “right at home” when I walk into a food co-op ... not just our own beloved French Broad, but also any of the 30-odd others I’ve joined, worked in or visited throughout my life. Perhaps I am less invisible and more welcomed than in other retail settings, perhaps there are intangible ways in which the 7 Co-operative Principles have crept gently into a minute-by-minute culture of valuing human interaction in these aisles. Perhaps now in 2016 I like that here I’m around people who can talk about something besides celebrity-notoriety-superficiality sound-bite driven coverage of the presidential campaign!.... while we do, though, it seems, conspire to make America’s diet great again. In the midst of a national preoccupation with the current presidential race, which wraps up the Obama era, I’ve thought about how our co-op has done during these same 8 years. Our gross sales per quarter during 2008 were $620,067, but for 1st quarter 2016 we showed $1,080,669.... A 74% increase! The National Co-operative Grocers organization would have been happy with our achieving a recommended benchmark of just 27% sales growth over 8 years. I figured I’d compare our performance with that of some mainstream business that’s the same age as we are. Like FBFC, Microsoft Corporation was born in 1975. From 2008 to 2016, Microsoft’s quarterly sales increased by just 58%, so we’ve sure got them beat! What to me is most revealing about our 74% growth, is that our General Manager and other managers and employees have stunningly squeezed 74% more product sales out of EXACTLY THE SAME space we had in 2008. On the one hand, this is grounds for serious appreciation and praise for our talented staff ... but on the other hand, this harkens back to the motivation and impetus found by many other co-ops who have concluded, hey, it’s high time for expanding! The phrase “bursting at the seams” had been heard from quite a few of them who went on to mount successful renovations or moves. As we approach the varied possibilities for our own future expansion, we are blessed to be able to learn from the historical record of other co-ops’ past expansion efforts around the country. In some cases, less-than-obvious choices made are what stand out ... Good Foods Co-op (Lexington, KY) placed a strong strategic emphasis on new infrastructure for on-site prepared foods, and via that seems to have made lasting competitive gains against nearby big-box Whole Foods and Fresh Market and Trader Joe’s stores. The economic impact of a co-op has often been multiplied by developing a large separate but closely-coordinated non-retail facility ... like La Montañita Co-op’s (Albuquerque, NM) wholesale Co-op Distribution Center (whose sales increased 7-fold in a 3-year period), or the commissary kitchens instituted by various co-ops from Indiana to Montana to New Hampshire to New York to North Carolina to Vermont to Wisconsin. Some co-ops took trail-blazing environmental initiatives, as via LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified construction done by Seward Community Co-op (Minneapolis, MN) and River Valley Market (Northampton, MA), or refrigeration waste heat recirculating for facility heating done by Brattleboro (VT) Food Co-op. Some co-ops have opted for creative innovation or dramatic impact in their
surrounding communities. One expansion of Outpost Natural Foods (Milwaukee, WI) had included a community credit union (which is also a co-operative!) as part of the newly sited co-op facility, but that wasn’t their most eye-catching past exploit. Note that I’m aware of at least 33 hospitals in the U.S. that have INSIDE THEIR OWN LOBBIES a fully functioning McDonald’s, Wendy’s or other fast-food junk-food eatery! In context of that, Outpost in 2012 opened a co-op satellite store offering an assortment of prepared natural food and produce and bulk items, in the lobby of Aurora Sinai Medical Center (which happens to sit within a food desert!). La Montañita also set a noteworthy example for others by launching “Co-op Grab-n-Go” on the University of New Mexico Albuquerque campus, providing fresh local and organic foods and snacks to students, faculty, and staff. We have always been an integral part of the heart of Asheville downtown, but sometimes established outlying co-ops have performed major community service by establishing smaller satellite stores right in the middle of increasingly grocery-scarce downtowns … as done by Bozeman’s Community Food Co-op (with a strong deli presence) and by Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op (10 feet from the site of Virginia’s oldest farmers market). In contrast, Onion River Co-op uprooted and plunged its entire self into downtown Burlington, VT in 2002 after departure of the area’s only grocery store, eventually there growing to more than 4 times its former size. I love the folklore (all of it true) about a human chain of co-op member-owners being formed to carry product inventory from the closing-down old store to the larger blocks-away opening-up new store … at different times in Ithaca, NY and Great Barrington, MA and Lawrence, KS. Charming as this is, the STORY of co-op expansions is much more about how the very altruistic values of co-ops, and the 7 Co-operative Principles themselves, will be much better served to the extent that investment, sweat and tears cause MORE PEOPLE to be reached, and more product to be moved. The stewardship of how physically to expand co-ops wisely, becomes a mission unto itself. We find eye-opening inspiration in seeing sales growth some have achieved as a result of expansion: Common Ground Food Co-op (Urbana, IL), 598% in 5 years; Lexington Co-operative Market (Buffalo, NY), more than 5-fold in 4 years; People’s Food Co-op (Kalamazoo, MI), nearly tripling in 2 years; Three Rivers Market (Knoxville, TN), nearly tripling in 3 years; Seward Community Co-op (Minneapolis, MN), 2 and a half times, in 5 years. Technically-demanding research and discussion, and a clear understanding of the needs and desires of the owners, and a savvy grasp of local marketplace realities, are obvious prerequisites when a co-op considers expansion. And … the cash must come from somewhere. In the commercial sectors, assumption by default is that loans from commercial banks or (higher up the ladder) private equity firm investments would be relied upon exclusively. I’ve looked into a number of co-op expansions and have been impressed how significant amounts of funding have come from the member-owners themselves … adding to the collective equity they ALREADY have within the co-op assets,
either through new loans made to the co-op, or else (less often) additional investments made as non-voting supplemental shares. New funds flowing in from owners have not only provided an important percentage share of needed expansion project capital, but have also had a “leveraging” effect, in demonstrating to a credit union or bank who likely would be loaning a larger portion, that there is credible and substantial support among members for the co-op’s existence and growth (thus convincing reason for making a construction loan). I analyzed 12 past expansions in Ames, Bloomington, Bozeman, Buffalo, Kalamazoo, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Northampton, St. Paul, St. Peter and Urbana. An average of $860,000 per project was raised through new loans or share investments by owners. For the 10 projects whose total budgets I know, a combined 22.2% of the overall project costs were covered via new funds furnished by owners. Community Food Co-op in Bozeman financed its downtown
satellite store solely through loans from owners, and generated these in only 5 weeks’ time. The member-owners of Bloomingfoods actually came up with $480,000 MORE than the goal of the loan campaign in connection with building an additional store. I find the history of co-ops’ growth efforts fascinating, and probably most inspiring within all this, the collective role of co-op member-owners … in building the critical mass of sales and support that stabilizes a co-op and puts it into a growth trajectory; in pointing the way regarding what they would like to see in a transformed future co-op; and potentially assembling a credible “down payment” of loan and/or additional share funding toward a construction/renovation package. I never see it as corny or an exaggeration to repeat that we are truly Stronger Together.
FRENCH BROAD FOOD CO-OP CALENDAR OF EVENTS
www.frenchbroadfood.coop • 90 Biltmore Ave. • Downtown Asheville • 828.255.7650