What It Takes to Open a New Location

About two years ago, we announced our bid to build a new Eau Claire store, and a year later we broke ground. Now, here we are about to open the doors of our new building. Our community’s big dream of expanding Eau Claire’s little food co-op is becoming a reality, and it took a whole lot of one thing to get us there—cooperation. As we wrap up, here’s a look at what’s gone into the project to get us here:

1. FUNDING: The project wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of our owners. Last summer, we embarked on a capital campaign to raise $2M so we could secure a loan for the remaining construction costs, and our community showed up for us again. By the fall, we had both enough owner investments and a bank loan to move forward, and the project is now finishing up on budget, putting us in a great spot financially to manage cash flow through what could be a tough first year as sales levels stabilize to our new normal.

2. STORE PLANNING & CONSTRUCTION: Once funding was secured, it was time to break ground and start construction on the building. Over the last year, we have worked closely with River Valley Architects and Market & Johnson on our project, as well as numerous other contractors who have all worked so hard to keep the timeline on track. And inside the building, our staff has worked alongside multiple teams at National Co+op Grocers and UNFI to create store plans and decide which products will be stocked on opening day.

3. ORDERING: Once we had our product selection finalized, our staff placed several massive orders for over $500K worth of products so shelves would be full on opening day. And throughout that time, they were also checking in with our smaller local suppliers to give them an idea of expected sales levels so they can be ready to grow alongside us.

4. STAFFING: The next piece of the puzzle was hiring up. Before that could happen, our General Manager Crystal and many department managers spent a lot of time figuring out how our organizational chart needed to change to support two bigger locations. Now we’re almost fully hired in, and staff are starting to get trained so they can be ready to help the minute doors open.

5. SETUP & STOCKING: As the products arrive, they will need to be stocked and tested at the register to be sure they scan. Our staff will be spending these final weeks installing shelves and preparing our point-of-sale system for the installation of six new check lanes. Then, new team members and several volunteers from both our community and other co-ops will be ready to help stock the shelves and put up signs so we’re ready on Day #1.

There are so many more moving parts to this project that I can’t squeeze into this short article, but as you can see, it takes the cooperation of many talented people to pull off an expansion. Thank you to every person who lent a hand. In just a few weeks, we’ll be opening our doors, and we couldn’t have done it without working together!

This article was originally published in the September/October 2023 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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