Message from Board President, Kevin McCracken

You can help make the Columbus Food Co-op grocery a reality. We invite you to become a member-owner, to become an investor, and to become a part of the shared vision as we build the Columbus Food Co-op.

A co-op is what happens when people pool their resources in support of a shared vision and they create something that none could create individually. 

More than 150 million Americans belong to one or more of the 30,000 cooperatives that operate in the United States. Rural America was electrified by Rural Electric Membership Cooperatives (REMCs). Indeed 40% of this country’s electric grid is cooperatively owned. Our homes, our automobiles, and our industries are financed by financial cooperatives (a.k.a. credit unions). Our agricultural economy is built upon the foundation of both farm service co-ops and farm production co-ops. Our economy also includes several retail cooperatives like R.E.I., Ace Hardware, Best Western, and NAPA automotive parts stores.

Locally, our shared vision is to create a cooperatively-owned, full-service, natural food grocery in Columbus, Indiana. In support of that vision, we now have more than 750 owner/members who have already invested in the Columbus Food Co-op. 

We are now in the process of implementing that vision. To do this requires capital; therefore we have launched a member-loan drive to provide our owner-members an opportunity to invest in the co-op: an opportunity to increase the likelihood of success. We would love for you to be part of it. 

This is how a business starts. We have the site, we have the plans, we have the commercial financing, and we have many other processes in place--or in development—that will allow us to make the vision real. All we need is for our business partners—our owner/members—to invest in THEIR business.

Skepticism is an investor’s best friend. As early investors of time and treasure, the Columbus Food Co-op board wanted data evaluating the viability of the business. The board turned to Cooperative Development Services (CDS), an unparalleled national leader in supporting the establishment and growth of food co-ops in the US.

CDS began supporting co-ops more than 25 years ago and has a proven success rate of opening 95% of the more than 250 co-ops they have worked with. CDS consultants have spent many hours advising and educating our board and our project manager.

Over the past four years, the co-op has done its due diligence and commissioned four market studies which evaluated six different sites across our community. An additional six sites were evaluated informally, to determine if further study was required. 

Each market study evaluated facility and site characteristics along with numerous population demographic descriptors, including age, race, per-capita income, and educational attainment. These metrics were then compared to similar communities across the US using a substantial normative database (more on that later).

The market study for the 1750 25th Street site was unquestionably the strongest with first-year sales forecast to be $3.4M in the first year of operation. Sales per square foot were 30% to 70% higher than any other studied. Indeed, two CDS consultants and the general manager of Bloomingfoods each referred to our site as a “home run” and the site most likely to lead to success. Historically, two grocery stores were successful in that location and each outgrew the site.

The normative database used by CDS includes sensitive financial information from hundreds of co-ops across the nation. Cooperatives generally operate according to the same core principles. One of those principles is “cooperation among co-ops.” This is what drives co-ops to share sensitive financial information. CDS then aggregates the data and uses it to help other co-ops.

This degree of information sharing is unique among co-ops. And yet, it is easy to see how this creates a valuable resource for co-ops like ours. Our revenue forecasts, growth rates, and itemized expenses are not just SWAGS or anecdotal projections. Instead, they are data-driven benchmarks resulting from high-quality inputs. All of our key indicators are benchmarked and are comparable to co-op grocery industry standards.

A critical review of the market study and highly comprehensive pro forma statements leads one to conclude that our community can easily support a full-service, cooperatively-owned natural foods grocery. By working closely with CDS and Bloomingfoods, we have the closest thing to a co-op grocery franchise that one can get.

Our strong relationships with both CDS and Bloomingfoods will serve us well during implementation. We have management and financial services support proposals from Bloomingfoods to assist our future general manager. We are currently conducting a national search for that position.

We are very well positioned for success. We have the vision, we have the systems, and we have the talent (and are recruiting more). The final essential element is accumulating capital. We are making progress and I fully expect we will reach our target.

Together, we are better. And together, when we pool our resources, we can create our shared vision. Together, we can create that shared vision: a cooperative grocery that will serve our community.

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