As was reported in the Courier (3/13/16), the national chain, Natural Grocers, is in the process of opening a store in Cedar Falls at University and Rownd. Earlier, representatives of Natural Grocers reached out to the Cedar Falls Food Co-op to explore the possibilities of collaboration and to share details of their plans. They noted that the Cedar Falls location would be one of four locations they are planning on opening in Iowa this year. (The first one has already opened in the greater Des Moines area.)
Rightfully so, Co-op member-owners want to know if this project will impact the efforts of the Co-op to open and to be successful after opening. The Co-op Board wishes to assure the member-owners and future member-owners that the addition of Natural Grocers to the area will be a positive influence on both the local food landscape, as well as the Co-op’s efforts to open its doors. Consider the following:
- We acknowledge that Natural Grocers would be deemed a competitor, but the store demonstrates a growing interest in organic and natural food. Having more options for healthy, organic food in the area is a good thing for the residents of the greater Cedar Valley, and will help in our overall efforts to educate shoppers on the value of organic.
- A recent market analysis conducted on behalf of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op showed sales forecast for the Co-op as being “above average.” In fact, the projections were just a few points shy of the “best” rating levels. This finding took into account having Natural Grocers as part of the competition in the area.
- Natural Grocers will be a very different model than the Cedar Falls Food Co-op. For starters, their stores are heavy on vitamins and supplements. Additionally, these stores don’t have delis. The Cedar Falls Food Co-op will be a full-service grocery store that includes a deli for fresh, healthy prepared foods.
- The Cedar Falls Food Co-op will have a strong commitment to the local economy. In addition to its commitment to carry food and products from local growers and producers, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op will be owned by the community and run by a community-elected Board of Directors. Natural Grocers is a Colorado-based corporation. A greater percentage of the money spent at the Co-op will remain locally.
- Lastly, Co-ops are popping up across the U.S. in part because co-ops emphasize community as part of their business model. The efforts to open a co-op in Cedar Falls are driven not just by having the right products on the shelves, but by having a community-centric business that can serve as a meeting and education place, that can instill a sense of pride in the community, and that can serve as hub for community building.
The Cedar Falls Food Co-op is still committed to being in or near downtown Cedar Falls, and we will continue our dialog with representatives of Natural Grocers to explore possible partnership opportunities in the future. Rather than thinking of them as a competitor, we can think of them as a potential partner in making the greater Cedar Valley a better, healthier place to live and work.