On average, it takes five to six years to open a new community owned grocery store. This process is very similar to the process of opening a conventional grocery store except that it all takes place in the open and with community input. It may seem like a conventional store gets opened quickly because by the time they break ground, they’ve done years of behind-the-scenes work and research.
The total time it will take to open Whitewater Grocery Co. is dependent on many factors: how quickly we build our Ownership, securing a location, getting financing, and hiring a talented General Manager. All of these key pieces must be in place to open the grocery store and, as in any big undertaking, we will encounter both triumphs and challenges along the way which affect the overall timing of the project.
We began our organizing late in 2015 and officially incorporated on April 4, 2017. Our Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws of the Whitewater Grocery Co. are available for your reference. Through the process, we’ve taken advantage of the vast resources available to help new community owned stores get off the ground and open with success. There is nothing more important than doing this right and we have a great model for the right way. The “cookbook”, as we refer to it, is a development model based on best practices in establishing a new cooperative grocery store. We first learned about this cookbook at the 2016 Up & Coming Food Co-Op Conference and we have been following it ever since. We know that by following the recipes in this model, we’ll be cooking up a grocery store that will thrive in our community!
In the past year, we...
- Amended our Articles of Incorporation to allow for up to 1,000 Owners
- Grew from $40,000 to over $70,000 in Owner equity
- Rented much-needed office space!
- Established governance policies for Board of Directors and three committees
- Had over 20 media mentions or appearances
- Spoke to a dozen community groups resulting in new owners at each presentation
- Were invited to present at two conferences regarding rural grocery store development
Received results of our preliminary market study:
- Whitewater can reasonably support a full-service grocery store
- We will plan to build a 15,000 square foot full-service grocery store
- Built pro forma and continue to work on proving financial feasibility given different inputs
- Began the location evaluation process and narrowed current options to 4 sites
- We continue to be one of the fastest growing cooperatively owned grocery store start-ups in the country (one year or more ahead of others in membership numbers)
100 Owners - Organizing Stage. Launch first Ownership campaign and begin recruiting volunteers for task groups. Hold first annual meeting and establish a Board of Directors as well as our Bylaws. Commence contract negotiations for professional and consulting services. Achieved May 8, 2017!
300 Owners - Feasibility Stage Part A. Establish a feasibility task group to begin looking at site options and financial feasibility. Conduct a co-op specific market study and develop business plan. Achieved December 18, 2017!
500 Owners - Feasibility Stage Part B. Begin site analysis, finalize business plan, and start to research supplier options and distribution networks. Achieved October 14, 2018!
650 Owners - Preconstruction Stage. Identify site options.
700 Owners - Store Design. Seek input from Owners on preferred exterior design features as well as interior design choices (which services are most desired by our Owners...parking, deli, etc). Professional interior and exterior store designers will use Owner feedback to guide the design process.
800 Owners - Site Announcement. The Board can sign a lease once we reach 800 Owners. 800 Owners demonstrates sufficient support and provides the necessary capital to move forward with confidence.
900 Owners - Launch GM Search. The Board will begin a national search for a General Manager. The General Manager will be involved in key operational decisions and oversee store operations.
1000 Owners - Capital Campaign. The Capital Campaign will raise the funds necessary to convert our site into a full-service grocery store. We will rely on a mix of bank loans, non-traditional financing, and Owner loans to fully fund start-up expenses. The most significant chunk of our revenue will be Owner loans, at about 50%. Owner loans are a fundamental method of funding for modern food co-ops. Traditional lenders require 50% Owner funding before making their loan available.
Then we OPEN!