Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Assabet Village Co-op Market. If you have further questions (or just want to chat or make suggestions), please e-mail Lorne Bell, Director of Outreach & Communications, at Lorne@AssabetVillage.coop
- Where will the store be located?
The aim is Maynard. That’s where our exhaustive market and feasibility study determined is the ideal spot: the town is located at the intersections of major routes (2, 27, 117, and 62) and surrounded by farms (our suppliers) and towns that value local food and would support a Co-op. The Board is looking at sites now and will select a final location after we pass the 900-Owner threshold. If we reach 900 Owners and there is no suitable space in Maynard, we then bring it back to our Owners to discuss waiting for a Maynard site or locating just outside the town’s borders. But the plan remains Maynard.
- How big will the Co-op be?
Based on our market and feasibility studies, our region can support a 7,500-10,000 square foot co-op!
- So, what is it? Like a buyers’ club?
We are a full-service, one-stop grocery store. The difference? We source as much local food as possible and we are owned by you, our shoppers. And our profits are returned to the community, instead of being sent to some far-off corporate headquarters.
- What will you sell?
We’re a one-stop grocery store. That means we’ll offer everything from cereal to meat to produce, dairy, fresh baked goods, and prepared foods. We’ll also have an extensive bulk foods section (great way to save money and packaging): nuts, cereals, dried fruit, spices, coffee, teas, olive oil, honey, maple syrup, and liquid soaps. We’ll try to offer as many organic products as possible, and our aim is to bring healthy, fresh, local products to our shoppers, strengthening the local economy and community.
- What about the store’s prices?
Co-ops aim to increase access to healthy food, so we need to be competitive. Local food does tend to cost a little more because small farms deal in smaller quantities and are not subsidized like large farming corporations. That said, by sourcing locally, we cut out the middle-men. We eliminate the costs of cross-country hauling, refrigeration, and extra packaging. This way, we can provide a fair price to our farmers and a good value to our customers.
We’ll also offer multiple price points, so you’ll find a conventional brand milk, say, alongside an organic milk and a local organic milk. This allows our shoppers to choose where to spend their dollars and how.
- Do I have to be an Owner to shop there?
NO, anyone can shop at the Co-op. Being an Owner entitles you to Owner benefits.
- What are the Owner benefits?
Owners receive Owner Discount Days and Weekly Owner Specials, Owner Coupons, and in profitable years, an annual dividend based on how much you shop at the store. As an Owner, you also have a say in the store’s products, programs, and classes. And you get a vote in our store’s governance and can serve on its Board of Directors or a Co-op committee.
- How much does it cost to become an owner?
It’s a one-time $200 share (not an annual fee), which can be made in $25 installments. This is a household share – any member of your household can shop under your share, take advantage of Owner Discount Days, and bolster your end-of-year dividend. Only the named owner has voting rights.
- What if the store doesn’t open or fails? Do I get my money back?
There really isn’t a question of whether we open, because there is no set date by which we need to hit 900 Owners or else. The sooner folks join, the sooner we can settle on our site and launch our capital campaign, the sooner we open.
If the store were to open and then fail, we would pay back our liabilities to the banks first, for equipment, etc., and then we would begin refunding Owner equity with what’s left.
However, while just 1 in 3 typical small businesses survives to five years, 70% of food co-ops are still thriving after five years. That’s because we build a large group of enthusiastic Owners (900+ customers) who are literally and figuratively invested in shopping at the store before our doors ever open. We also take the time to conduct exhaustive market and feasibility studies to determine the exact location, size, and Owner base needed to ensure that we thrive on Day 1 and Day 1,000.
- When do you open?
Start-up food co-ops take 5-8 years to build, and we’re right on track (started in late 2012). This process is known as GROW, FUND, BUILD. We GROW an enthusiastic customer base – about 1,000 eager, invested shoppers – before the doors ever open. After passing 900 Owners, we can settle on a final site and FUND our store with a 4-6-month capital campaign. Then we BUILD our store!
We now have MORE THAN 800 OWNERS and are nearing a major milestone in our march toward opening day! The sooner you join, the sooner we pick our site, launch our capital campaign, and celebrate our grand opening!
- What is the capital campaign?
The capital campaign typically takes 4-6 months. According to our market and feasibility studies, we will need to raise about $1.2 million. This is done through a variety of funding options, including Owner loans (for those who want to and can make interest-paying loans) and a preferred share program (shares that operate like stock). Grants will also be pursued.
While this is no small effort, we are not alone. Food Co-op Initiative and Neighboring Food Co-op Association – our national and regional food co-op startups organizations – provide expert consultants to train co-op boards and volunteers to execute short, effective capital campaigns. They are excellent at what they do, and our Board and volunteers will be ready. All Owners, regardless of their participation in the capital campaign, always have an equal voice in our store.
- How successful are Co-ops?
70% of food co-ops are still thriving after five years. That’s UNHEARD OF in the small business world, where just 1 in 3 small businesses survives to five years. The reason is that we build an enthusiastic and invested customer base before we ever open our doors. And we do market studies to make sure that every financial consideration is addressed to ensure a thriving store on day 1 and day 1,000.
- Is there a work requirement like the co-ops from the 1970s?
No. While we do have an active core of volunteers, Owners do not need to volunteer to receive full ownership benefits.
- What about jobs?
Food co-ops pay living wages and offer benefits as part of their mission of building sustainable, thriving communities. The result is typically very low turnover, a happier, more productive workforce, and more local residents spending their earnings locally. It’s a win-win-win.
- How do I join?
Click here to join online: http://assabetvillage.coop/join-online/
To join by mail, simply print out an Owner form from the Join Online link above and mail it with a check to Assabet Village Co-op Market, 54 Main St., Suite 205, Maynard, MA 01754.