Site Search Criteria, and How You Can Help …
As we search for a site for our locally sourced, community-owned grocery store, you may be wondering … What, exactly, is our Board looking for?
The criteria below are based on our extensive market studies, the expertise of the Food Co-op Initiative and Neighboring Food Co-op Association (which have deep industry knowledge and a proven track record guiding startup co-ops to success) and the realities of a highly competitive grocery industry.
*We are not looking for perfect, and some criteria can be flexible. But some, like dedicated, immediately adjacent parking, cannot. We LOVE hearing that folks will walk to support us, but picture a parent with two kids in tow in the middle of winter, and you understand. Grocery stores don’t survive by what you carry out in two hands – they survive and thrive by folks doing their weekly shop.
1. Target Community: Maynard
This is not on a whim. Our market studies confirm that Maynard is the ideal spot for a thriving food co-op. It’s surrounded by farms (our suppliers), surrounded by communities that support local food (Concord, Acton, Sudbury, Stow), and at the intersections of major routes (2, 27, 117, 62).
Because of the tight real estate market, we are also exploring border towns. The Board will never sign on anything outside of Maynard without first bringing it back to you, our Owners, to discuss whether we continue to wait for a viable site in Maynard or move on something in a neighboring town. But we’re not there yet – we’re still full steam ahead on Maynard.
2. 7,500-10,000 Square Feet
This is what our studies tell us the region can support right now. For a sense of what 10,000 square feet looks and feels like, the old Trader Joe’s in Acton (before the expansion) was about 10k square feet. You can also click here to check out the fantastic (and recently opened!) 10,000-square-foot Dill Pickle Co-op in Chicago, pictured at right.
Smaller than 7,500 square feet and we start to cut in on the departments that make us a full-service grocery store (baked goods, prepared foods, meat/fish, full produce, etc.). We also need a minimum square footage to safely accommodate products, inventory, employee space, registers, etc. Do we NEED a deli and cafe? A community space for classes? At 7,500 square feet, it gets tight. At 10k, prospects for those wish list items are good.
Why not bigger than 10k square feet? Right now, the market won’t support it. That said, many co-ops are finding that they open with what the community can support, and they quickly become so successful that they HAVE to expand (check out River Valley Co-op and Monadnock Food Co-op). We hope to be in that company – but let’s work on Store #1 first
3. 35-50 Dedicated, Adjacent Parking Spots
We can ask our employees to park offsite (that’s the 35 or so), but 50 is ideal. And of course, 50 spots will allow us to grow sales and traffic (which we expect to do) and accommodate that growth.
Why dedicated, immediately adjacent? See the asterisked comment above.
4. Loading Dock
Not essential, but not cheap to build, either.
5. Visibility, Car and Foot Traffic
This may seem obvious, but we have run sites through our sales forecasts that lack one of these criteria, and the results haven’t been good. Could we make up for this with a low-cost space? Potentially. But that all depends on our sales forecasts. Which brings us to …
6. Sales Forecasts
This is the bottom line – the “equals” result that comes from combining all of the above criteria (and others). Basically, do our forecast sales outpace our costs per square foot (adding in labor costs, utilities costs, equipment costs, loan repayments, etc.) by enough to open a successful store? If yes, we’ve got a potential winner. If no, we don’t.
Now, we do “discount” our sales forecasts. A good business practice, this means we run our sales forecasts and then do a final analysis based on coming in 20% short, 15% short, 10% short, or on target. Why do this? Because the unexpected happens, and businesses that don’t plan for the unexpected don’t survive. A direct competitor moves in nearby. A construction delay puts off our opening and adds to our carrying costs. The unexpected. Is there wiggle room here for taking more risk? Yes. But from Day 1, our Owners and elected Board leadership have planned to open a full-service, community-owned grocery store that is around for decades to come, not one that opens and closes a year later. That is still our goal.
We WILL open our community-owned grocery store. It is not a matter of if, but WHEN. What can you do to move this process forward and help open our Assabet Village Co-op Market in 2020?
Three Steps Will Get Us There Together …
STEP 1: FIND OUR SITE
The best way to do this is to join our Board – they are working with realtors, property owners, developers and local officials to find a viable site. Your skills, insights, and energy at the helm will help locate our store and open our doors THIS YEAR. E-mail Siobain@assabetvillage.coop to learn more.
STEP 2: JOIN THE CO-OP, RECRUIT YOUR FRIENDS
We need at least 1,200 Owners to launch our Capital Campaign, and 200 more to blow it out of the water and open in 2020. If you haven’t joined, join today!: https://assabetvillage.coop/co-op-owners/become-an-owner/
Owners, we know nudging friends can be weird. We’ve made it easy …
– Click Here for the My Five E-mail – https://assabetvillage.coop/the-my-five-e-mail/ – a simple template to send to 5 friends.
– Invite Lorne Bell to speak to your community group! He’ll chat Co-op, answer questions, and sign folks up: Lorne@assabetvillage.coop.
– Host a Co-op House Party! Laid back, fun, and Lorne does all the work. E-mail Lorne@assabetvillage.coop to book your Co-op party!
STEP 3: VOLUNTEER, FEEL GOOD, REPEAT
More than 70 Owners have stepped up for events, committees, and the Capital Campaign Team. Make 2020 the year – e-mail Lorne@assabetvillage.coop to become a proud Co-op Volunteer!
We’re opening a full-service grocery store that sources local food and is owned by us. No more food “industry” hiding our food system from us. Our grocery store, OUR local farms and producers, OUR families’ food, OUR community. What could be more important?