Why is the name Cedar Falls Food Co-op? Is it just for people living in Cedar Falls?

At a community meeting early in our development, we discussed the name of the Co-op as a group, and decided upon the Cedar Falls Food Co-op for several reasons. The first was that best practices suggest that we have the location of the store in the title rather than another name that does not give any indication of where the Co-op is. This helps people searching for food co-ops if they see within the title the location. Cedar Valley was suggested, but at the time there was the new Riverloop Co-op in Waterloo. Since co-ops cooperate rather than compete (principle 6), we opted not to encroach upon the Riverloop membership base but instead use the name Cedar Falls Food Co-op to distinguish ourselves from the one in Waterloo. However, just as most Cedar Valley residents patronize businesses across the region, we welcome and encourage membership from anywhere. Waterloo is our second highest city with regard to member numbers followed by the Waverly/Denver corridor. In fact, we have members from across Iowa and several other states.

Where will the Food Co-op be located?

We currently don’t have a specific location in mind, but we are looking to establish a co-op in or near downtown Cedar Falls. We find that the most successful co-ops, both new and established, are connected to a community’s core hub. In addition, a market analysis from Cedar Falls Community Main Street indicates a high need for a grocery outlet in the downtown area. Lastly, we believe that downtown Cedar Falls is walk and bike friendly, allowing for a nice alternative to the grocers located in other areas of our community.

Will you build, buy, or rent?

We are still working on the overall co-op model and have not yet determined the best solution for us. At this point we are open to all options. When you become a member-owner, you'll have a say in decisions such as this one. Exciting, isn't it!!

Why not just a buying club and start out small?

While we admire (and shop at!) the many established food co-ops in the region that started as buying clubs back in the 1960s and 70s, we believe that start-up method does not align with the needs of today’s consumer. We feel strongly that working towards a full-service grocery store will be the most successful approach. In fact, it has been the way with many of the current co-ops now being established, as is outlined in the article, “Why (Some) New Co-ops Fail,” (Cooperative Grocer, Nov-Dec 2012)

What will the membership structure be?

Membership, or ownership, is the heart of a food co-op. Members OWN the co-op through their equity payments (investing in your community) and active participation in the co-op's democratic governance. Each member has the opportunity to vote in Board of Director elections. Since the board is the body that steers the co-op, members have an active voice in how the board is formed and how the co-op is governed. Members can run for election to the board and may serve on committees. Other member benefits may include a patronage refund during profitable years, discounts on case orders, workshops, and specified items each month, the ability to special order certain items, and equivalent pricing at other area co-ops (which is termed co-op reciprocity).

How are food co-ops funded?

Most food co-ops collect a member equity from each member/owner. This equity payment is an investment in your community and a major part of the capital that helps fund the store's operations and improvements. Many food co-ops also conduct member loan drives to fund a building or expand services. Some co-ops collect annual member fees, although this practice is not as common as it once was. Some grants and loans may be available through government or private organizations, and commercial loans from lenders such as local banks and credit unions have also helped to fund several recent food co-ops. The Cedar Falls Food Co-op will thoroughly research all of these options before determining which ones would be best for our situation.

What about Hy-Vee’s Health Market? Isn’t that enough for us?

We believe that the Health Market at Hy-Vee is a great asset to our community and hope to consider them as a partner in providing local and organic products to the people of Cedar Falls. We believe that a Cedar Falls Food Co-op would thrive in the region, and that through our education programs, would increase the overall demand for healthy foods, not only at Hy-Vee, but at Fareway, Hansen’s, and the local restaurants. Lastly, we hope to provide shoppers with an alternative to Hy-Vee by having a co-op that offers healthy, local, and organic without all the aisles of junk, processed, and unhealthy choices that currently fill most of our grocery stores.

What about Natural Grocers? How will it's opening impact the Co-op?

Natural Grocers will celebrate its Grand Opening at its Cedar Falls location on December 21, 2016. Earlier in the year, representatives of Natural Grocers reached out 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.” This finding included having Natural Grocers as part of the competition.

•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, local commitment. 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 local.

•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 the “third space,” a place to help build community.

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.