Low turnout for co-op store discussion
Only eight people attend Clintonville meeting
By Bert Lehman
An informational discussion about co-op grocery stores organized by Alderwoman Mary-Beth Kuester was held June 6, and was attended by only eight people.
Of those eight in attendance three were media representatives. There were also representatives from Econofoods of Clintonville.
Kuester has said on numerous occasions that bringing another grocery store to Clintonville is an issue she campaigned on because her constituents told her they want another grocery story in town.
She began the co-op store discussion by stating the purpose of wanting to bring another grocery store to the city is to get residents who shop outside the city for groceries to shop locally. The idea of a co-op grocery store could serve more than just the city of Clintonville, she said.
“We could at least see this as a possibility,” Kuester said.
Lynn Walter, of New Leaf Market Co-op in Green Bay, was the guest speaker. She spoke about the trials and tribulations her group has experience in trying to bring a co-op grocery store to Green Bay.
Walter said co-op grocery stores are member owned, so the profits from the stores go to the members.
“There has to be enough interest in not only having a grocery store, but people who will invest their capital in a grocery store,” Walter said.
She said banks won’t finance a co-op if it doesn’t have a major investment of capital already.
The goal for the New Leaf Market Co-op is $750,000 in member equity, Walter said.
The amount of member equity that would be required for a co-op store in Clintonville would depend on the size of the store and the kind of services provided.
“The key is, if you don’t have enough member owners who are willing to invest capital in the store, it’s not going to work,” Walter said.
She said the keys to a successful co-op grocery store are location, having a business plan, getting enough members to show interest, and financing.
The process to form the New Leaf Market Co-op started five years ago and it still isn’t built. Walter said location has been the main issue.
“If from the beginning we had said we’d go anywhere we would have been open by now,” she said. “The problem has been trying to find the right location in downtown Green Bay.”
Regarding the initial business plan, Walter said the members have to devise that plan.
“Something to say what it is you are about,” Walter said. “A mission, a vision, what market you are serving. I don’t know how you go about finding that out here.”
She added that their consultants have said everything can’t be based off what people say they want. Someone has to analyze shopping habits with what people say they want.
“What I would do if I were you is start looking at some of the smaller co-ops and asking them what is their business model,” Walter said.