Ready, Set, Grow!
We are excited to announce that we are exploring a possible opportunity to expand our current store’s footprint. Thanks to your support, our co-op has grown rapidly over the last five years! It’s important that we proactively plan for the future and that includes recognizing our current and future space constraints. Although we don’t know yet if this project is possible, we want to let you know now & solicit your feedback along the way.
Our co-op’s sale’s have doubled since we opened in April of 2013, which has also allowed us to sell more local products and support more local farmers, offer more healthy food choices, and increase our donations to community causes each year. This growth has also led us to almost double the number of staff who work at our co-op, for whom we have been able to increase both wages and benefits.
However, our growth has caused space constraints, most noticeably in the back of the store where our staff work. For example, we have already moved our Marketing and Finance departments off-site due to lack of space. It has been very challenging for staff at times. Space constraints are less noticeable on the retail floor, but there are early signs of it there too.
We think our store is pretty great just as it is now, but by being proactive and creating more space now, the customer experience will not decline and become as challenging as it has become for staff. In order to continue serving our growing number of member-owners and shoppers, we need to consider an expansion of some sort — after all, our co-op’s purpose is to serve our community’s needs.
A larger store could help us address existing and future space constraints. It could also improve our selection of local and organic offerings, and improve our purchasing power, which would likely lower our cost of goods and result in further reduced pricing.
Thank you to everyone who answered questions regarding expansion in our 2016 Shopper Email Survey, and last spring’s survey at our registers!
Your contributions informed a market study we commissioned to explore ways to better serve our community. While our current store does have some site limitations, we could best serve our existing shoppers and meet our Ends Statements by considering an on-site expansion if viable. We are working with National Co-op Grocers’ store-expansion team, Monadnock Economic Development Corporation, CDS Consulting, KDS Architects and others to explore our options.
Options for Member-Owner Input
We also hope that as one of our 3000+ member-owners or a shopper, you will also take the time to consider what you love about our co-op now and would like to see more of in the future, and let us know what your personal vision is for your co-op as we grow. We are holding three small coffee-hour input sessions and two larger input events with formal presentations this spring. We will also be sending the 2018 Shopper Email Survey out in late March, and whenever you think of other feedback for us, don’t hesitate to fill out this form so our design team can consider as many of your priorities, needs and ideas as possible. We look forward to hearing from you!
Is On-Site Expansion Feasible?
We have not determined this yet — we are still in the initial exploration phase of this project. There are many factors to consider and we need to gather input from many sources.
In March we should learn whether we received a Community Development Block Grant we applied for to help with this project. We will also be working on securing another 15-20 parking spaces in the lot in front of our store. Check back here or subscribe to our email newsletters for updates!
Details of Proposed Plan
Our current vision is to expand into the space on the east side of our building, and add about 5,700 square feet of space (for reference, our current sales floor is 8,000 square feet). The draft plan we are exploring will also create another 20-30 additional parking spaces that would sufficiently support the project, but to be clear, it may not solve all our parking constraints.
Working with Katie of KCS Architects, who was instrumental in our original store design, we continue to prioritize natural light and energy-efficiency as building plans are drafted. Monadnock Economic Development Corporation, who owns our current building and the land we hope to expand onto, plans to fund the expansion of the building which we will lease as we do our current store.
Our co-op will be responsible for raising funds for the purchase or lease and installation of new equipment along with renovation of the existing space. We plan to raise this money through a Member-Owner Loan Campaign similar to the one we conducted before opening in 2013. We do not yet have a full picture of the financial needs of the project at this stage during the feasibility study, and if the project is viable, do not plan to conduct a loan campaign until late spring or early summer. However, if all goes well and enough money is raised from our Member-Owners by early summer, we could break ground as early as the end of August this year and open an expansion by early Summer in 2019!
The Timing is Right
If we do not explore an expansion of some kind, we risk having crowded shopping conditions for you, and crowded working conditions for our staff, as our shopper base continues to grow. As we mentioned earlier, we have already moved some Admin staff off-site in order to accommodate our growth, and have added vertical storage space in every available location. It is essential to research and carefully plan for our co-op’s future while we have a possible option.