Shortly after the new year began, the Co-op board received some sad news: The Dubuque Food Co-op, after almost 3 years of being open, was closing. (They officially closed on Jan. 22.) I will admit that this news took a bit of the wind out of our sail. When other co-ops struggle, or fold, it is natural to wonder about the likelihood of being successful here.
It’s important to note, however, that most co-ops that have opened within the last 10 years are still open. In fact, many are thriving. In addition, the board of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is learning some important lessons from Dubuque, lessons, (including the importance of following the advice of your market survey!), that will help us ensure being successful for years to come.
Let’s be inspired by some other food co-op’s successes!
Let’s start off with this co-op, located in North Carolina (population 228,330). They opened a 12,000 sq ft store (right smack dab in the middle of our goal of 10-14,000 sq ft) in April 2015. They are already beating sales projections. Woo hoo!
One of the models we’ve followed quite a bit in recent years, this co-op, located in Bismarck, ND (population 61,272), opened a 9,500 sq ft store just last spring. To date, they are meeting their sales projections. Way to go, Bisman!
Nestled in the valleys a couple of hours west of Washington, D.C., Harrisonburg, VA, (population 51,400) got together and opened their own food co-op in April of 2015. Less than two years into their operation, they are significantly beating sales projections. Great news indeed!
Here’s one more: Dill Pickle Food Co-op opened in Chicago, IL in 2009, and in its first year achieved annual sales that were more than double the projections for the co-op’s fifth year in business! Now after 7 years, they’re already making plans to relocate to a bigger space. How exciting!
Okay, while this co-op, located in Northfield, MN, (population 20,007), opened more than 10 years ago (they opened in 2004), they are still relatively new. They are also in a smaller town, yet they started turning a profit in 2009, and have been wresting with the decision to expand. That’s a good problem to have!
So there’s a demand for food co-ops. And despite the set back of one (Dubuque), there are more positive stories from across the country. Even here in Iowa, New Pioneer expanded their presence by opening a new location in Cedar Rapids. And brace yourself for more good news: There are over 120 co-ops, just like the Cedar Falls Food Co-op, that are in the development stage, getting ready to open for business!