It was a year ago this month that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op almost signed an agreement for our future home. Unfortunately, the landlord withdrew the offer, so after almost 4 months of negotiations, we were back in the hunt for a new site.
Last year, as we were getting closer to signing the agreement, we also started making hints at some Co-op events – hints that we would be making an exciting announcement soon. We also started working with one of our committees on planning a site announcement party. Of course, as you know, there was no announcement. No party. No site.
I fully recognize how frustrating this may seem for our Co-op members, as well as the community as a whole. (I also recognize that for the dozens and dozens of people who volunteer their time behind the scenes, it may be even more frustrating.) “How much longer?” is what we all want to know.
If I could gaze into a crystal ball and provide the answer, I would. But I think reminding ourselves that we are on a well-worn path helps. We are part of a larger movement across the U.S. where food co-ops are opening up all over – 8 co-ops opened this past year from Montana to Virginia. I can guarantee you this: None of them opened up as fast as the membership would have liked. The reality is, though, that many took much longer than anticipated.
This summer, our board held a conference call with some of the founding board members of Green Top Grocery (Bloomington, IL). They recounted their story of almost running out of funds before they could even launch their member investment campaign. (They also provided some great tips to help us stretch our dollars.) But they persevered, and now 2 years later they are thriving.
Urban Greens (Providence, RI), which opened this spring, took 12 years from incorporation to opening. As context, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op incorporated 5 years ago this fall.
And here’s a picture I took of a slide at a start-up food co-op conference. We were listening to the story of how East Aurora Co-op Market struggled to find a site. You can see that their stage 2B – the stage we’re in right now – took almost 2.5 more years than anticipated!
East Aurora actually announced a site, and then, due to issues with the building, had to terminate their lease and go back to looking for another site. They’re not the only food co-op to open in recent years that announced a location, but then later had to change sites. Wild Root Market (Racine, WI) is currently moving forward on opening their store – and this is their third site they’ve been working on.
Fortunately, for the Cedar Falls Food Co-op, we’re ahead of the curve – we’re on track to open a store that serves the entire Cedar Valley and helps keep our local dollars in the community.
Here’s another photo of a slide from that same conference:
The board, the outreach coordinator, and all volunteers who are helping plan events, deliver and pick up yard signs, staff booths, and more are all working hard to ensure the foundation of this business is solid and poised for long-term success. That means we’re being picky about finding the best location for the store. We will not make compromises just to get something open.
We are going as fast as this group of volunteers can. But we can go faster with more volunteers, so please contact me if you want to lend a hand. In the meantime, please be patient and remember that our goal is to be successful, and if that takes a little more time than we’d like, so be it. To have a great store is what we all want.
President, Board of Directors