Since the first community meeting in September 2012, those of us behind the efforts to open the doors of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op have had to explain our vision. In addition, we’ve educated many people about what a co-op is. Along the way, however, we’ve discovered the need to correct a number of myths about co-ops in general and the Cedar Falls Food Co-op in particular. Here is my list of the top 6 myths about the Cedar Falls Food Co-op:
Myth #1: The Co-op will be a “buying club,” an indoor farmers market, or a small Roots-type market
Roots Market, which closed in 2012, was 4,000 sq ft in total size. The Cedar Falls Food Co-op will be 2.5 to 3 times that size. It will be a full-service grocery, meaning shoppers will be able to buy produce, boxed good, canned goods, frozen foods, dairy, meats, beer and wine, health and beauty products, pet food, seasonal products and more. Yes, you’ll be able to pick up some produce grown by local farmers and some coffee, toilet paper, and whatever else is on your grocery list. With a full deli and a “grab and go” cooler, the Co-op will be your one-stop shop.
Myth #2: I have to pay an annual fee to be a member of the Co-op
To become a member of the Co-op is simple: just purchase a share. Once you buy a share, you’re good to go. Your share makes you a co-owner of the Co-op along with all the other member-owners. A share is $200. That’s it!
Myth #3: You have to be a hippie/liberal/vegetarian/etc. to join the Co-op
Everyone is welcome at the Co-op! In fact, all types of people are already members and are participating on committees and the board of directors. Some people are drawn to the idea that the Co-op will focus on organic food, yet others are drawn to the fact that the Co-op will be a profitable business in the Cedar Valley. This notion brings me to my next myth…
Myth #4: The Co-op will be a nonprofit
On the contrary, the Co-op will be a for-profit business. The plan is to be a successful—and sustainable—business where member-owners can get a percentage of the profits returned to them in the form of patronage dividends. Unlike typical corporate businesses, though, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is owned and directed by its membership, so it looks beyond the bottom line by taking into account the overall health of the community, including by paying its workers a fair wage with good benefits. This leads me to the next myth…
Myth #5: If I become a member, I have to work volunteer shifts at the Co-op
While it’s true that Co-ops that started in the 1960s and 1970s relied heavily on volunteers to stock shelves, today most co-ops have moved away from that model or are in the process of moving away. The Cedar Falls Food Co-op will be run by a trained, professional—and paid!—staff. Of course, there will be some needs and opportunities for volunteering, including serving on the board of directors.
Myth #6: Hy-Vee is too big and powerful so the Co-op doesn’t stand much of a chance
By employing a national consulting company, which has worked with groceries in markets all over the U.S., the Cedar Falls recently completed a comprehensive market analysis, which looked at all the competition in the region, including stores in Waterloo. It also factored in Natural Grocers, which will be opening a new store in the area. The results? A food co-op in Cedar Falls will be successful.
I like being a part of something successful. How about you? Now’s the time to join—each membership gets us one step closer to opening our doors. Let’s do this!