We have received the results of our market study, conducted by two consultants working through CDS Consulting Co-op, a co-op of people who provide business services to co-ops across the nation.
The market study is the first part of what becomes a full business plan for a store. It examines the area’s sales potential for our planned grocery operation and explains relative strengths and weaknesses of particular locations.
For competitive reasons, we are keeping the complete study to ourselves. Anyone else could use it to their own advantage.
But we can tell you that it did what we wanted: It confirms that a food co-op is viable in downtown Bay City. And it gave us better insight into the positive and negative aspects of specific buildings and locations.
For example, parking is important. Grocery customers use carts or bags to carry their purchases, so anything that makes it difficult will reduce store sales. Another factor is visibility; locating a store where it can easily be seen makes a difference.
And although we would not envision a store on the size of, say, a Kroger, the study emphasizes that we need enough space to provide a “full-line” grocery. It also urges that we include space for educational activities involving food and nutrition, something we have aimed to do.
The market study also points out challenges: Because of the area’s lower-than-average income level and sales figures, promotion will be important. So will experienced store management.
It also found that a store located downtown indeed can be successful but noted that, considering the area’s demographics, sales potential would be greater in a location at the city’s western edge. The board, however, remains committed to locating a store in downtown Bay City — an area considered a “food desert” because of its lack of retail food options.
The bottom line is that the study validates our plan. It shows that what maybe sounds to some people like just a nice idea is in fact something that can become a reality.
And, before we forget, deep thanks are due to our supportive friends at Michigan State University’s Product Center, which helped us cover the cost of the market study.
But in the meantime…
Our most important job to make the co-op a reality is to sign up owners. It’s easy, either online via PayPal or by printing out the member agreement and mailing it in with a check. A share costs $200. Or, to help out even more, you can become a founding owner for $400.
Already an owner? You can help by encouraging your friends and neighbors to join you.
Meanwhile, we move ahead…
We recently applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant that will, if we get it, cover the cost of completing a business plan. We expect word one way or the other sometime in the fall.
We also have been handing out literature and having lots of conversations at various downtown events, such as concerts and the recent Urban Salvage sale in Wenonah Park.
After our fun pop-up markets in Unity Park downtown in July and August, we’re set for the next one — 5-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. An assortment of local farmers and other producers have shown up to sell their goods — huge melons, bright sunflowers, spicy jelly and fragrant herbs, among others. Unity Park is just west of Saginaw Street on Center Avenue, across from the planetarium.
And our thanks to Don Sabourin, a co-op founding owner, for use of the park!
Other activities in the works, as part of our educational mission, are a fermentation class in October and a bread-making class in November.
Tweaking the common share agreement
Some potential member/owners have expressed concern about the possible legal implications of item 9 in our common share agreement. The item is intended to say that a member/owner is responsible for expense incurred by the co-op because of that member. Some people have thought the wording suggested they could be responsible for any member’s expenses.
Frankly, we don’t know when this would come in to play but we’re trying to be careful about legalities. So after consulting with our lawyer, we have changed the wording slightly to, we hope, make things clear. The new wording, reflected in the member form now on the co-op’s website, says:
“Members agree to pay the co-op for damages and expenses caused by or associated with the member’s own failure to: (a) pay any amount charged or assessed by the co-op; (b) comply with member obligations; or (c) provide the co-op with truthful, accurate, and complete information.”
Have a question?
People often ask if they’ll need to be an owner/member to shop at the co-op. The answer is no. The store will be open to everyone!
And will owners need to work in the store? No; the plan is for a paid staff.
Other questions? You can contact the co-op via email anytime at email@example.com or via message on our Facebook page.