We’ve heard from our shoppers that they’d like a wider selection, seating area and more parking. Several market studies confirm our area can support a larger store if located in a highly visible location with ample parking.
Our store’s physical capacity is reaching its maximum for the level of sales and customer traffic we achieve. It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the shelves stocked with limited room for storage and no dedicated receiving area for our ever-larger deliveries of healthy groceries, produce, and meat.
Did you ask owners about expansion?
Three years ago the Board of Directors initiated communication with the ownership and community about expanding the store. The process began with a shopper survey with nearly 800 responses. More than 85% supported the idea of expansion, 13% were neutral, and less than 2% opposed.
The Board also did in-store tabling to discuss expansion, held an owner forum, and interviewed focus groups with local stakeholders. Using the input gathered, the Board developed a strategic plan as a guide toward expansion.
Will Astoria Co-op owners get to vote on expansion?
Our Board will approve major milestones, including signing a lease and construction contract. As part of our cooperative structure, our Board is elected by Co-op owners and therefore is empowered to represent owner interests and make important decisions on their behalf. Board members have spent the last several years learning about Co-op expansions, consulting with experts, and soliciting feedback from owners, and are prepared to make the complex decisions involved with an expansion to best serve diverse owner needs.
How does expansion serve the greater-Astoria community?
By expanding, the Co-op seeks to increase access to healthy food and good nutrition for the community by offering a broader selection of natural foods, more deli and ready-to-eat foods, improved meat selection, and more space for fresh produce. By expanding the Co-op we also seek to increase our sales of locally-grown and made products so we can keep more dollars circulating in the local economy.
Additionally, the Co-op seeks to increase its impact by growing our capacity to support and partner with like-minded organizations with missions surrounding local health. Finally, the operation of the new store will require more employees. More local jobs that pay living wages in our community will certainly have a positive impact.
What’s the ecological impact of an expansion?
A bigger store will of course use more energy and water. We’ll install new state-of-the-art refrigeration systems and HVAC as well as LED lighting. These improvements will translate to a per square foot reduction in the Co-op’s energy usage. We’ll also be providing increased products and services that folks may be driving to Warrenton or even Portland to get. We’ll also be selling more local and organic foods, thereby supporting more sustainable farming practices.
Will food prices at the Co-op increase as a result of the project?
Increased volume will allow us to have more competitive prices. We partner with co-ops across the country to bring national purchasing power to our co-op, but there are incentives to save more through increasing our store’s volume. We are projecting considerably more sales and expect to be able to pass savings on to owners. Finally, our new space will be designed to operate more efficiently as a grocery store, keeping labor hours in check.
Will it still feel like a Co-op?
At 8,000 square feet of retail space our new store will be about four times the size of our current space. As a comparison, Safeway is about 60,000 square feet. If you’ve ever been to co-ops in Port Townsend or Ashland, the size store we are planning would be a bit smaller and those places still feel very much like a co-op. And we’ll still generate that co-op smell!
Will the expansion include more parking?
Yes. A requirement of the Board is that the new location provides at least 6 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of retail space.
Will the expansion incorporate solar panels?
Most likely the preliminary phase of our project will not include solar panels due to tight budgeting, but the building will be designed so they could be added later during our tenancy.
Will an expanded store offer services that aren’t currently available?
Through your feedback, we know our shoppers want more of what the Co-op does well: more space for fresh produce, more local products, full-service deli and meat departments, and a dedicated seating area. We plan to include these improvements in the new store.
What kinds of products will be at the new store?
Our management team will be making the decisions about what to carry and your opinion and requests help in that process. Let us know your ideas by posting them on the product request board in the store or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How will the expansion be financed?
The Co-op is preparing to issue a preferred stock to owners that are Oregon residents. This stock will build the Co-op’s equity, strengthening our position when we apply for financing. An important way for Co-op owners to participate in the expansion will be owners investing in our preferred shares campaign to occur later this year. More information on the capital campaign will be available later this year.
How can Astoria Co-op Grocery owners be involved as the project progresses?
The Co-op will continue to provide updates on our web page, newsletters, emails, social media, and printed information in the store. Updates will occur at our annual meetings and other special meetings of owners as needed.